Courier Staff Writer
The Ottumwa Police Department’s annual report shows a drop in overall crime for the sixth year in a row, though violent crime increased and the drug task force began a new battle against heroin.
Last year, 3,891 crimes were reported to the OPD, the lowest number of reported crimes since 1989. Overall, reported crimes have dropped nearly 20 percent since 2006.
Part 1 Index Crimes are those tracked by the FBI, which include violent crimes and property crimes. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crimes include burglary, theft, auto theft and arson. In total, Part 1 crimes rose 8 percent from 2011 to 2012 in Ottumwa.
One significant factor in the increase was robbery, which increased 210 percent in 2012. Robbery is, by definition, the use of violence or threat to commit theft.
But, said Police Chief Jim Clark, people should note that robbery also includes purse theft, which contributed to eight of Ottumwa’s 31 robberies last year.
“We had a number of purses stolen, so technically if you take a purse from someone, that’s a robbery,” Clark said. “Some might consider that a theft, but we have to follow the definitions that the FBI uses.”
Through the years, theft has generally been the biggest crime in Ottumwa, Clark said.
“We have a number of people, frankly, who want to take things from other people,” he said. “They’d rather steal than go get a job and pay for it.”
Officers made a total of 3,775 arrests in 2012, a decrease of 5.3 percent from 2011. Narcotics, theft and PULA (underage drinking) topped the arrests.
Clark noted that underage drinking has always been a problem in Ottumwa.
“So many parents condone it, though it used to be worse,” he said. “Parents would rent motel rooms for their kids to have underage drinking parties at prom. We worked hard and did a lot of enforcement, and that’s pretty much stopped.
“Not only have we had to educate kids as to why they shouldn’t be drinking, but parents have had to be educated also. I’ve listened to parents say before that they’d rather have them drink in the house so I can watch them, rather than someplace else where they could get hurt. That’s a parent not accepting responsibility for teaching their kids right and wrong. That’s a parent who doesn’t want to say ‘no’ to their child. That’s a pretty poor excuse of parenting, in my opinion.”
Officers also continue to arrest those for public intoxication and drunken driving as a way to combat further crimes.
“We’ve been criticized in the past for arresting so many people for public intox,” Clark said. “But a high percentage of people who commit crimes after 10 p.m. have been drinking or are drunk. They go home from the bars and assault their spouses or live-ins, they break into places, they steal gas, they go to the convenience store and steal more alcohol.”
Besides the fact that it’s illegal to be drunk in public, Clark said by arresting people, they prevent other crimes from being committed.
Last year the Southeast Iowa Inter-Agency Drug Task Force conducted 66 search warrants, seized 12 methamphetamine labs and conducted five seizures of chemical/glassware/equipment.
In 2012, the task force filed 257 drug-related charges against 217 individuals.
In total, the task force confiscated:
• 279 grams meth
• 22 grams heroin
• 8 grams crack
• 6.5 grams cocaine
• 273 oz. marijuana
• 77 marijuana commercial plants
• 12 oz. synthetic cannabinoids
• 608 dosage units of pharmaceuticals
Sgt. Jason Bell, supervisor of the task force, said for the first time in his career with the task force, officers had the opportunity to purchase heroin in southeast Iowa.
“That’s not necessarily been a big problem here, in this area of the state it hasn’t,” Bell said. “Unfortunately, we are starting to deal with persons that are purchasing heroin — and heroin is a highly addictive drug. It’s a whole new area of abuse that we have to deal with. It’s not more expensive [than other drugs], it’s just something we haven’t had to deal with in our area.”
Meth also continues to be a big problem in the area, Bell said.
“Meth lab seizures are lower than they have been in the past, but methamphetamine seizures have increased,” Bell said. “What that does is show us that the availability for somebody to go out and purchase meth is high right now, so they don’t have to go out and manufacture it themselves.”
The availability of meth from outside areas has increased, which largely floods in from California and Mexico, he said, where super meth labs contribute to large-scale quantities of meth.
A new problem in Iowa, though, is meth oil.
“Meth oil is meth in its liquid form, and that’s transported from wherever it’s manufactured in liquid form to places like Iowa,” Bell said. “Then it’s transferred later into a solid or usable form of methamphetamine.”
People are concealing the meth oil in windshield washer reservoirs and their vehicles, Bell said.
“Law enforcement is familiar with seeing meth in powder form, so this is a way for them to conceal it,” Bell said.
Illegal use of pharmaceuticals is a continuing issue, he said, even though the state implemented the Prescription Monitoring Program several years ago.
“But it’s hard to track everybody involved in the distribution of pills because it’s so easy for them to change hands,” Bell said. “The Prescription Monitoring Program is in place to identify people altering prescriptions obtained from doctors. They’ll change the dosage amount they’re supposed to get.”
Painkillers seem to be the predominantly abused prescription medication, he said.
“I think drugs have been a problem not just in Ottumwa but across the country,” Clark said. “They have been, and they probably always will be. As long as they’re illegal, we’ll continue to aggressively enforce drug laws. There’s no doubt that other crimes have been committed while people were using drugs or so they can continue to use drugs, through theft, burglaries or domestic abuse.
“I think drugs are a scurge upon society and we need to continue to aggressively combat them.”
The full annual report can be found online at www.cityofottumwa.org/police/annual_reports.
Notable crime of 2012:
Police Chief Jim Clark outlined some of Ottumwa’s major crimes of 2012 in his report:
• January: Eddie Ward was charged with first-degree robbery after allegedly robbing a patron at the Busy Bee Laundry Mat at knifepoint.
• January: Two juveniles were arrested for conspiring to shoot students at Ottumwa High School.
• February: Bruce Pollard was charged with second-degree burglary after he was caught on video by the downtown camera system entering Appanoose Rapids Brewing Company and then exiting moments later with an undisclosed amount of money. A month later, Pollard was charged with the armed robberies of Sonic Restaurant and Jefferson Street BP, as well as the murder of Cinema X Theater manager Kenneth McDaniel.
• March: Andre Flipping, 24, was charged with third-degree sexual abuse after an 18-year-old man reported being sexually assaulted at Stardust Motel.
• April: David Venegas, 18, was charged with willful injury following an investigation into the stabbing of Eden Guerra, 21.
• August: TNA Enterprises reported their heavyweight wrestling championship belt had been stolen during a show in Ottumwa. Joel Ryan Luke and Forrest Courtney Jamison were later charged with the theft of the belts.
• November: Curtis Bunnell was charged with first-degree robbery after he allegedly lured a local landlord to a home under the guise of showing a rental property to a potential renter.
• December: Abraham Barraza was charged with kidnapping following an investigation into the assault and forced removal of a 17-year-old girl from a home.