HPD Patrol Car

A Hermiston Police Department vehicle drives through town in 2020.

Total crime rates in Hermiston declined in 2020, while violent crime rates were higher than the city’s 10-year average, according to the Hermiston Police Department’s annual report.

Chief Jason Edmiston, in his opening statement in the report, called 2020 the “most tumultuous year I have experienced in my now almost 24 years of working for HPD,” referencing the pandemic and protests.

“This year will be a complete reset from last year as our department works on goals to enhance the livability of those we serve,” he wrote. “The pandemic adversely affected our 2020 department goals, but each of us is eager to press forward because we know we can make a positive difference for the largest city in Eastern Oregon.”

According to the annual report, the rate of all crimes in Hermiston dropped 24% from average rates, with 493 total crimes committed in 2020 compared with the 10-year average of 647. Violent crime, however, increased by 12% in 2020, with 38 crimes committed to the 10-year average of 34, according to the report.

Total reported homicides, rapes and arson crimes each increased in 2020, with a 10-year high of eight reported rapes, while aggravated assault, larceny, burglary and auto theft declined. Robbery rates did not change, according to the report, staying at eight in both 2019 and 2020.

The report also notes several significant cases throughout the year, including the death of Jordan Crandall, who police learned was killed in Hermiston after an alleged “disagreement with associates.” The case has been presented to the district attorney’s office, where charges are pending, the report said.

The report also detailed the death of Jesus “Eli” Lopez, who was found deceased with a gunshot wound in his family’s garage on June 9, 2020. With “virtually no evidence at the scene and few clues,” the report said, the incident initially lacked an obvious motive. The report stated that after several months of investigation using “high-tech investigative methods and cutting-edge forensic techniques,” detectives identified the alleged killer, who is in custody out of state awaiting extradition to Umatilla County.

Hermiston detectives, along with Oregon State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are still investigating the disappearance of Graciela Garcia, the report said. Garcia went missing in November 2019.

Police have devoted much time and resources to the investigation, the report said, but they “are still diligently following leads in this case as they become available.”

The police department also released its annual patrol statistics.

Nearly all patrol statistics in 2020 were below average rates for the last 10 years, including total incidents, calls for service, traffic stops, case investigations, arrests and citations. The most significant declines came with arrests, which declined by a total of 37%, according to the report.

The only patrol statistic to not decline was officer initiated activity, which stayed the same.

The department investigated several types of crimes in 2020, the report said, including homicide, armed robbery, sexual assault, child sexual and physical abuse, online sexual exploitation, human trafficking, financial crimes like embezzlement, fraud and forgery, and residential or commercial burglaries. Some cases required forensic interviews and polygraph examinations, the report said.

In 2020, the department received a total of $43,575 in grant funds for “specific programs,” training, and for officers working overtime, the report said. Most of the funding came in $30,200 from the Rotary International Club, Kiwanis International Club, and other community partners for the department’s Christmas Express program.

The department had 28 full-time sworn officers and 10 mostly volunteer support staff.

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