Hermiston police officers initiated more actions on their own in 2015 as calls for service fell to a 10-year-low. And violent crime shifted down from the year before, but crime overall remained stagnant through 2015.
Hermiston police Chief Jason Edmiston has released his department’s annual crime statistics, which measure crime across eight categories. While individual types varied, Hermiston had 524 reported crimes in 2015, just one more than in 2014. Still, that was a 35 percent drop from the city’s 10-year average.
Violent crime — homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — fell from 24 incidents in 2014 to 21 in 2015, however the city had its first homicide since 2012 and assaults jumped from eight to 12. Assaults are 56 percent lower than the 10-year-average, but after a low of four in 2013 are trending up. Edmiston said in the report that the department will monitor that for causation purposes.
Burglaries hit 53 last year, 22 fewer than in 2014 and the lowest in the city in a decade. Edmiston stated curbing that crime has been a focus since he became chief in 2012.
Property crime ticked up 1 percent in 2015, primarily due to an increase in larceny from 388 incidents to 413.
“Shoplifting accounts for a significant chunk of that larceny,” Edmiston said. It is not unusual for officers to respond to shoplifting calls at Walmart two to three times per shift, he said.
Hermiston police also took 10,032 calls for service in 2015, almost 2,100 fewer than in 2014. Edmiston in the report stated that was concerning to him, but he was confident some of the decline has to do with tracking information that comes into the police department compared to when the city had its own dispatch center. Dispatching was consolidated with Umatilla County in 2014, Edmiston said.
The drop in calls also corresponds to police taking more initiative. Edmiston reported Hermiston police experienced an increase of 20 percent in officer initiated activity, including a 26 percent increase in traffic stops. That work also bumped up total reports 9 percent, arrests 6 percent and citations 11 percent.
Edmiston also reported Hermiston police from Dec. 21, 2015, to Jan. 4 arrested eight people for driving under the influence of intoxicants, cited 17 people driving while suspended and handed out 26 citations for hazardous crash-causing violations (not equipment-related violations). A grant provided the funds for the crackdown.
Edmiston also plans to release juvenile crime numbers later this month.
In his presentation to the city, Edmiston also looked ahead at challenges his department will face going forward.
Among his goals for the department are increased interaction with the community for things like Neighborhood Watch and Business Watch projects in press releases sent out through local media.
He also wants to increase interaction with the Hispanic community, which makes up roughly one-third of the city’s population. The department currently as seven paid employees that are bilingual, which is 23 percent of the staff and has 2 more volunteer staff members that can speak Spanish.
The department also hopes to educate the public on ways to avoid becoming a victim of crime.
Gary L. West contributed to this report.