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Cops crunch crime

Statistics don't necessarily lie, but rarely do they tell the whole story.

Just ask local police crime analysts, who are crunching numbers in preparation for the department's annual report profiling crime in Colorado Springs later this month.

Initial projections indicate no dramatic spikes in last year's overall crime rate; however one thing that remains constant is the wide-reaching effects of drug use, particularly the street drug methamphetamine.

"Methamphetamine drives a lot of types of crimes," said Sue Schwall, crime analyst for the CSPD's Falcon Division. For example, Schwall cited an increase in motor vehicle crimes, burglaries of storage units and identify theft.

Det. John Amundson, who heads the department's forgery and check fraud unit, estimates that 90 percent of the crimes have a drug connection. Of that, he believes 75 percent are meth related.

Amundson says most forgeries come from checks being stolen from mailboxes, chemically whitewashed, and rewritten.

"They don't always just steal your checks," Amundson notes. "They're going to do things like buy cars in your name, get loans and then they're going to walk way."

Last year's 1050 forgeries totaled $2.6 million in damages, reflecting a nearly 20 percent increase in cases from 2002.

Sgt. Terry Curry of Metro VNI, the department's narcotics unit, said the statistics don't necessarily reflect the level of local narcotic use.

Curry notes that the VNI division investigated 45 percent more narcotics cases in 2003 than it did the year before. However, he said, the increase is not indicitive of a spike in narcotics use, but rather in how the department has internally changed the way it carries out investigations.

Senior crime analyst Bill Edmonds of the Gold Hill division said he believes drugs play a part in most crimes. However, he says that if he can't prove a direct correlation, he cannot factor it into any official analysis.

Edmonds, who's analyzed crime for the CSPD for 19 years, warns against drawing premature conclusions based on statistics. He cites 2002's quixotic rise in property crime as an example of a curious aberration. That year, burglaries shot up over 30 percent from 2001.

"It just happened," Edmonds said. "If it happened consistently then you look at some underlying or root cause. The moment you give an answer why, you're stuck with explaining why it didn't happen the next year."

-- John Dicker

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The CSPD's 2003 Statistical Annual Report will be available April 15 at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs library and all Pikes Peak Library branches.

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