Correction: The original headline on this article said “Cheyenne crime rate ticks up …,” but was based on an earlier draft of the article with incorrect data. The Wyoming Tribune Eagle apologizes for the error.
CHEYENNE — A growing capital city may necessitate a larger police force, according to Cheyenne’s police chief.
Reports of crime from property damage to theft, and even rape, remained high in the Cheyenne area in 2022, as detailed in the Cheyenne Police Department’s annual report for last year. Grouped by criminal code categories used by the FBI, which does not differentiate between felonies and misdemeanors, the report detailed “crimes against property,” as well as “crimes against people,” among other categories.
In a five-year comparison, 2022 saw a slight decline in crimes against property, from a five-year high of 3,772 to 3,581. Crimes against property include things like burglary and breaking and entering, destruction of property, embezzlement, theft, extortion and fraud. In a similar five-year comparison, crimes against people dropped to 1,186 from a 2017 high of 1,282 (2021’s total was 1,269). Crimes against people include things like aggravated assault, homicide, human trafficking and sex offenses.
Recent annexations of county pockets into city limits have likely not impacted crime, Cheyenne Police Chief Mark Francisco said Friday in an interview with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, but population growth may have an impact. A larger annexation of areas currently outside of city limits, he said, definitely would.
“There has been talk of annexing the (South Cheyenne Water and Sewer District), and that would most assuredly affect us,” Francisco said. “Internal studies we’ve done show that that could be upwards of a 20% increase in our call volume and crime. That’s some growth that is concerning, that we would have to manage.”
During 2019, the CPD redesigned its patrol area boundaries into seven beats based on crime data, response times, geographical area, population density and future growth considerations. Today, the department is funded for 111 sworn officers. Based on the current population, that number should be 123-125, Francisco said.
“We really think the size of the police department should be in the mid-120s,” Francisco said, adding that the department gathers best practice data regarding staffing per thousand residents to arrive at its numbers. But recruiting is tough, and if the CPD had to add 20 officers to its police force, it could take years, Francisco said.
“The council and the mayor are supportive of (incremental growth),” he said. “We added two positions last year, and we are adding two more this year.”
There are currently 109 CPD officers in the city.
According to the report, the CPD responded to 41 reported incidents of rape in 2021. That number rose to 51 in 2022. In 2021, police responded to 850 and 620 reports of destruction of property and larceny/theft, respectively. In 2022, those numbers were 742 and 661, respectively.
In 2021, officers responded to 620 drug and narcotic violations; the number was 652 in 2022.
Incidents of assault offenses, motor vehicle theft, burglary, theft from motor vehicles and theft of vehicle parts all fell in 2022, but incidents of shoplifting increased in the last calendar year.
In its accountability section, the CPD reported 43 total department complaints. Nineteen were internally generated and 24 were externally generated. Eighteen were exonerated, three were not sustained, 20 were sustained and two were unfounded.
In 2022, out of 79,902 calls for service, officers used force in 284 incidents. Of those incidents, 169 subjects were white, accounting for 59.5% of incidents involving force. Sixty-five were Hispanic, or 22.9%. Thirty-eight subjects were Black, accounting for 13.4% of all incidents using force.
Force, as detailed in the report, included verbal commands, handcuffs, controlled hold, takedowns and other physical action. In 12 incidents, CPD displayed a firearm.
Police made 1,264 arrests of male subjects, arresting 1,031 white suspects and 147 Black suspects. That means nearly 82% of all male suspects arrested were white, and 11.6% were Black. CPD officers arrested 489 female subjects, with 423 of them white and 54 Black. Male suspects were issued 5,303 tickets, and female suspects were issued 2,947 tickets. Two tickets were issued to gender-unidentified white suspects, according to the report.
Traffic stops lead to fewer crashes
In 2022, the CPD issued 5,265 traffic citations, including 905 speeding tickets and 364 DUI citations. The highest speeding ticket was for 38 MPH over the speed limit, and the highest speeding ticket in a school zone was for 36 MPH over the posted speed limit.
In 2022, the CPD responded to 1,383 reported crashes, which were either hit-and-run incidents, DUIs, injuries or caused a combined property damage of $1,000 or more. There was a 9% reduction in traffic crashes from 2021 to 2022, which CPD says correlates with an “increase in traffic stops conducted in 2022.”
One of the department’s goals last year was to have an impact on high-crash intersections, Francisco said. Rather than choosing intersections at random for increased traffic enforcement, the PD added a data-driven approach to its deployment strategy: Officers increased traffic enforcement in areas based on data collection regarding location of traffic incidents.
“Simply, it seems it has had an impact,” Francisco said.
The department has the same goal for 2023.
“We are trying to target specific places we are having trouble,” he said. “It seems to have had an effect, but like most things, we will look for a trend as we continue those efforts to see if, year over year, it does result in reductions.”
The annual report is geared toward the public, Francisco said, as most people have no contact with law enforcement in Cheyenne.
“It is a very small segment of the population that drives the crime rate,” Francisco said.
To that end, the report includes a section covering community service efforts like the department’s Halloween Trunk-or-Treat event, a citizens police academy and the holiday Shop With a Cop event. During those events, officers hope to engage with the public “in a relaxed atmosphere, where there is not a crime or we are not encountering people on their worst day,” Francisco said.
“The theory is that we want to encounter people when they aren’t stressed, when something bad hasn’t happened, so that you get to know us as people, and we get to know you as people,” he said.