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DeMeo blames crime increase on budget woes

The crime rate in Nye County went up 8 percent from 2011 to 2012, a change Sheriff Tony DeMeo said he believes is related to budget cuts and personnel losses his office has faced over the last several years.

In 2012, there were 1,417 crimes committed throughout the county. That’s 8.06 percent higher, or 398 more cases, than the 1,019 reported in 2011.

While violent crime went up by only a small amount in the same period, property crimes, like larceny theft, went up significantly, according to data collected as part of the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report.

Although the sheriff said 2011 was one of the safest years in the county’s recent history with one of the lowest crime rates of the last decade, the spike in 2012 may be related to budget cuts and other financial issues recently plaguing the NCSO.

“The budget had a lot to do with it honestly,” DeMeo said.

The sheriff explained in years past he was able to fund special task forces to address growing crime trends in the county. While his office began to see similar trends resurface last year, the sheriff said this time there was no money in the budget to pay for a special task force or have deputies work overtime to address those issues.

“In 2010, I saw there was an increase, that we were getting slammed. It was the first year they started this buyout program and so on and so forth, we started losing people and we got slammed. It was also the year Ian Deutch died, there were just a whole lot of things going on in 2010. So what I did in September of 2010, on a Sunday night, I was tired of our citizenry getting slammed by the criminal element, so I initiated the Predator task force. I knew what they would do, and what it did is it slammed all the bad guys. We decided to make the criminals aware we were still here,” DeMeo said.

“And in 2011, (the task force) drove the crime down, because a lot of the people committing these crimes were the ones we were arresting. We started identifying individuals we never knew before that were in the community and here from Vegas and other places. Then in 2012, with the budgetary issues and the fact they began cutting the sheriff’s office down to the marrow, not the bone, but the marrow, there was no ability for me to establish a task force or anything like that to address some of the things we saw popping up,” the sheriff added.

The biggest increase in reported crimes in 2012 was in larceny thefts.

In 2012 there were 687 reported larceny thefts in Nye County. That’s more than double the 331 reported in 2011, according to the UCR data.

Although the amount of thefts overall went up, violent thefts, such as robberies where property is taken by threat or force, went up by only a small number. According to the data, there were 26 robberies in 2012 compared to nine in 2011.

“The majority of the increases were with the larcenies. We just didn’t have enough police to be proactive,” DeMeo said. “In 2010, I basically put this task force together and we had a great deal of success. We don’t have the money to do that now. If I had the money to put together a task force, believe me, we would start seeing the numbers go down again.”

After a new half-cent sales tax was recently passed by commissioners the sheriff said his office could benefit from the additional financial support it’s slated to receive.

As a way to deal with fewer deputies on staff and less money in his budget, DeMeo said as part of the budget plan he will submit to commissioners outlining how the new funds would be used, he would like to include several new positions for un-sworn officers who could help take reports.

The sheriff explained having a few personnel who are trained to take police reports and collect evidence in this capacity would free up sworn officers to respond to in-progress calls or proactive patrols across the county.

He added that the new sales tax funds could also provide for additional equipment and overtime pay for deputies to help drive the crime rate down in the coming years.

Whether the numbers are up or down for any given year, however, the sheriff said his number one concern is the fact that people in Nye County are being victimized.

“Numbers are numbers, but the fact of the matter is behind those numbers are victims,” he said.

“Honestly, when people in the county go well (the crime rate) is still lower than it was a few years ago, I think that’s showing insensitivity because there are still people behind those numbers. Every number identifies a victim. That’s the problem. We could go out and solve or clear the crimes, but how do you devictimize the victims? That has always been my driving point in law enforcement is to prevent victims from becoming victims. We have to find ways to stop people from becoming victims,” he said.