High crime in North Idaho

Kootenai County has highest rate in the state

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COEUR d'ALENE - While Idaho's overall crime rate dropped by 1.5 percent in 2012, the crime rate in Kootenai County increased by 9.3 percent, and the county recorded the highest crime rate of all Idaho counties.

The information was released earlier this month by the Idaho State Police in its annual, comprehensive "Crime in Idaho" report.

The statewide crime rate last year was 5,087 offenses per 100,000 residents. The Kootenai County crime rate was 7,210 per 100,000.

Kootenai County Sheriff's Office Lt. Stu Miller said there are several variables contributing to the high number of offenses committed last year in the county.

"We have a huge influx of folks that really aren't accounted for," Miller said.

Because the state's calculation of the crime rate is based on population, Miller said the statistic is skewed. It doesn't consider the high number of people who regularly visit the county for recreational purposes or to attend large-scale events like Ironman.

The county's proximity to the city of Spokane is another factor he pointed to.

"We bring in a lot of folks that come over from our neighboring state, commit crimes and then go back," Miller said.

The state report indicates there were 10,245 "group A" offenses committed in Kootenai County last year. Larceny, with 3,187 reports logged, was the most highly reported crime. Behind that were simple assaults, with 1,490 reports and vandalism, with 1,170 reports.

The Idaho State Police's 2011 "Crime in Idaho" report placed Kootenai County fourth in the state, with Nez Perce, Bannock and Valley counties recording higher crime rates. The 2010 report placed Kootenai fifth, with 6,274 offenses per 100,000 residents.

The Kootenai County city with the highest crime rate is Coeur d'Alene, coming in at sixth in the state with a crime rate of 10,219 per 100,000 residents.

High crime rates were recorded in other parts of North Idaho, in comparison to the rest of the state.

With just 1,143 residents living within its jurisdiction, the Ponderay Police Department in Bonner County has the highest crime rate of any police agency in Idaho. Ponderay officers dealt with 213 offenses in 2012, reflecting a crime rate of 18,635 per 100,000 residents.

Contributing factors likely include Ponderay's location, just north of Sandpoint, in a resort and recreation area. The city is adjacent to Lake Pend Oreille and bills itself as "the proud gateway to Schweitzer Mountain," with several hotels and motels within its borders.

The Shoshone County Sheriff's Office edged out the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office for the highest crime rate for that type of agency. Shoshone County Sheriff's deputies recorded 6,389 offenses per 100,000 residents, while Kootenai's deputies logged 5,269.

Shoshone County's appeal to outdoor recreation enthusiasts who flock en masse to the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River each summer is a likely contributing factor.

In Kootenai County, another factor in the higher crime rate is staffing, said Lt. Miller.

"We have a lower number of deputy sheriffs per thousand than other counties," Miller said.

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