MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO) -- The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office reported deputies have seen a more than 500 percent increase in violent crimes in parts of Mesa County that border our cities and towns.
The increase in violent crime means less time for proactive policing, as the drain on resources hinders the ability of deputies to get ahead of many problems, according to officials.
"Our calls, they have just risen dramatically,” said Deputy Terry Bridge. "We used to have time to go out and hit some of the areas that may have been problem areas and it’s less and less that we get a chance to do that."
"They are responding from one call to the next call, trying to keep up with the demand," said Sheriff Matt Lewis.
While each call is different, violent and dangerous incidents are on the rise.
"I think the numbers show an overall increase of over 500 percent in crime over the past 10 years," said Sheriff Lewis. "Non-negligent manslaughter, murder, forcible rapes—those types of crimes."
While there is no single reason, Sheriff Lewis said the population in unincorporated Mesa County has significantly increased over the years, and MCSO staff has decreased at the same time due to budget restraints.
"If we had more, we could do more - both in the area of proactive policing and targeted crime enforcement," saidSheriff Lewis. "But also in just providing the best service when we do come in contact with our citizens."
Sheriff Lewis said a struggling economy could be to blame for the increasing crime rates, and that Mesa County has some of the highest crime rates in the state.
"We found that Larimer County, Weld County, Boulder County, and Pueblo County, when you take out the municipalities, they serve almost the exact population that we do out here in Mesa," said Sheriff Lewis.
Sheriff Lewis said that Mesa County doesn’t have the same resources as many of those Front Range counties, or even our neighboring counties.
"We did a comparison that showed how much more crime we handle than some of our surrounding counties, with fewer officers per citizen," said Sheriff Lewis.
Sheriff Lewis said the drug scene in Mesa County also continues to be a growing problem. A lot of MCSO resources go toward combating meth, and deputies are also seeing more illegal marijuana grow operations that are taking advantage of the state’s legalization of pot.
There has been an increase in property crimes as a result of drugs as well, according to Sheriff Lewis.
These changes spurred Sheriff Lewis to ask county commissioners for a larger budget in 2017, including funding for more than 50 deputies for both enforcement and jail operations to keep up with the growing crime rates.