Year in review: Major crimes down

CNJ file photo An investigator holds up homicide victim Clifford Webber’s New Mexico driver’s identification card found in his wallet by collecting evidence at a house on west 14th Street. The case was one of three
homicides in Clovis and Curry County during 2009.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Local law enforcement focused on bolstering staffing and expertise, working to strengthen departments in 2009.

And if crime statistics are any indication, the work appears to be paying off for Clovis.

Index crimes — major crimes reported annually to the FBI — were down 9 percent by the end of November, the latest available statistics.

Burglaries increased but Clovis Chief Steve Sanders said many of those cases have been cleared by arrest.

Sanders said the city’s two homicides for the year both resulted in arrests and charges.

Overall, there were three homicides in Clovis and Curry County in 2009 — one less than the year prior.

Sanders said his agency is now within two positions of being fully staffed — a contrast to a year ago when they were down 13 officers. New additions helped beef up the detective division. Work has also started to upgrade communication equipment and data systems.

The Curry County Sheriff’s Office has also recruited several experienced officers and added positions to its rosters, according to Undersheriff Wesley Waller.

Data shows the Clovis Police Department’s more than 60 officers took nearly 9,000 incident reports and responded to more than 30,000 calls.

About a fourth the size of the police department, the sheriff’s office responded to nearly 3,000 calls, more than 230 of which were at the jail, and served almost 8,000 civil documents.

Sanders said his agency is now in the process of getting new officers trained and streamlining infrastructure to improve operations in the department.

“I love to be a change agent but I realize I have to take my time. I don’t want to create change without having the infrastructure in place first …To get the results, before you can do that, you’ve got to have all the pieces of the puzzle,” he said.

“The main focus (this year) was to get the resources and equipment that we needed.”

Detectives — up from four to seven — have started to feel some relief and are, “getting their heads above water,” Sanders said.

Waller said his agency completed its second year of Internet predator cases, participated in several significant narcotics arrests and helped investigate three homicides between the city and county as well as a cold homicide case, all of which resulted in arrests.

“We have maintained a full staff, we have hired a number of deputies with a vast and diverse amount of experience,” he said.

“(And) we have continued and will continue with our proactive and aggressive approaches regarding investigations into crimes against children in Curry County and will continue with our interactions with the schools throughout the county.”

Continued collaboration with the Major Crimes Unit, Region V Drug Task Force and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force are top priorities for the sheriff’s office, he said.

In the last couple of months, Waller said the sheriff’s office has joined with city police to investigate and abate a spike in residential and commercial burglaries.