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Large drop in crime in rural Black Hawk County

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier - 1/28/2023

Jan. 27—WATERLOO — Led largely by a drop in property crimes, crime in rural Black Hawk County was at a record low in 2022, according to figures released by the sheriff's office.

Sheriff Tony Thompson said crime rates are cyclical and are often tied to factors beyond law enforcement control.

But he'd like to think part of the decline is linked to proactive projects his office has undertaken to address recidivism, keeping people from returning to jail.

"We have invested, over the years, in a multitude of pre- and post-arrest diversion and criminal justice programming efforts that hopefully have started taking root. Time will tell ... because if the results are able to be replicated year upon year, we know we are on the right track," Thompson said.

While in jail, inmates have access to faith-based re-entry programming, life-skills programming, drug and alcohol abuse programming and education geared toward obtaining a GED, Thompson said. The Department of Correctional Services has the "Swift, Fair and Certain" program, designed to quickly address probation violations; and the court system has specialized drug courts for addiction.

The sheriff's office crime numbers pertain mainly to cases in the county's unincorporated areas and not inside the city limits of Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Evansdale, which maintain their own statistics.

Overall index crimes — homicide, robbery, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft — were at their lowest in at least 15 years, according to Courier archives.

In 2022, sheriff's deputies worked 76 index crimes, compared with 136 in 2021.

Reported sexual assaults were down to 11 from 19 the prior year. Burglary was down to 24 from 51 a year earlier, and larceny — a fancy word for theft — was down to 34 reports compared with 52 in 2021. Vehicle theft was down by a half, six in 2022 from 13 in 2021, according to the sheriff's office numbers.

Aggravated assaults remained steady at one each year, and there were no homicides or robberies reported in 2021 and 2022.

Thompson noted that the plunge in crime was accompanied by a dip in overall calls for service for deputies — 8,230 in 2021 down to 6,888 in 2022.

"Some of it is less officer-initiated work — a smaller work force due to officer shortages, which we continue to combat and which is improving," Thompson said.

Even so, bookings at the county jail were at a three-year high — 6,130 people in 2022, up from 4,952 in 2020. But the jail's average daily population was down slightly — 250 people last year from 262 the year before.


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