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The City Journals

Crime down, recruitment up, says WVC police chief

Feb 11, 2020 01:47PM ● By Travis Barton

In her annual presentation to the West Valley City Council, Police Chief Colleen Jacobs (seen here at the opening of the new police headquarters) said crime in the city, compared with the weighted average of the past five years, dropped in 2019. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

In her annual presentation to the West Valley City Council, Police Chief Colleen Jacobs said crime in the city, compared with the weighted average of the past five years, dropped in 2019.

“Overall, crime is down,” she said. 

Jacobs said they measured the crimes compared with the averages over the last five years. Vehicle burglaries, for example, averaged to be 1,213 per year over the last half-decade. In 2019 however, they had 876. 

Other crimes to have dropped include:

Residential burglary: 2019 – 481; 2013-2018 (yearly average) – 582. 

Business burglary: 2019 – 151; 2013-2018 – 194. 

Robbery: 2019 – 135; 2013-2018 – 156. 

Vehicle theft: 2019 – 775; 2013-2018 – 1,102.

Weapons offense: 2019 – 253; 2013-2018 – 279.

Jacobs attributed the success to what she called “hotspot enforcement.” Working with the department’s intelligence unit, officials created a map illustrating where certain types of crime have increased. Patrols are then instructed to provide specific enforcement to those areas. It’s a data driven type of enforcement, she said. 

“Any kind of higher visibility,” Jacobs told the council. “If they’re just visually in the area and they’re marked cars, it tends to drive crime down in that area.” 

But not all numbers went down. 

Aggravated assault was up from 208 average over previous five years to 221. And graffiti increased from 163 to 217. 

Homicides, something Councilman Steve Buhler said he is often asked about, were up to 11 total in 2019 as opposed to the six to nine range Jacobs said it usually is. 

Another number that went up, in a bit of good news for the department, were the amount of applications to join the department. Jacobs reported a 300% increase in applications. The first half of 2019 saw them only receive 77 applications while the second half saw 529 applications, of which they hired 31. 

The police department lost 20 officers over the course of the first six months in 2019, leading Jacobs to start a recruitment unit. It was, she said, a “significant partnership with human resources” that saw them increase the amount of contacts with potential applicants and find more qualified applicants. 

While they have 35 vacancies in the department right now, they have 33 going through training. Majority of the new hires, Jacobs said, are new to a police force. 

“We continue to look for innovative and progressive ways of doing (our) business,” she said. “That’s the blessing side of having such a young and less experienced department. We can try new things and they don’t know any different. The not so great side is they don’t know what they don’t know, but they do work hard.”