The Telluride Marshals Department reported a decrease in crime for the second consecutive year. (Courtesy photo)

The Telluride Marshal’s Department presented to Town Council Tuesday its annual report, including details on crime in 2017. Chief Marshal James Kolar spent about 40 minutes discussing the facts in his report and answering questions that arose. Kolar led off the session by saying, “The Class A categories of offenses that constitute violent crime and property witnessed a decrease for the second year in a row, going from 124 incidents in 2016 to 102 in 2017, an 18 percent reduction.”

His report noted 7 auto thefts in ’16 but only one last year.

Perhaps the most startling statistic Kolar announced at Rebekah Hall was town’s reduction in DUI arrests, which plunged from 83 to 32 in 2017. The 83 DUI arrests in 2016 were an absolute outlier, given Telluride’s previous record of 39 in 2013. Town Council members appeared flummoxed over the discrepancy. How’d that happen, they wondered.

Replied Kolar: “One of our officers, who recorded a number of DUI arrests, went to day shifts in 2017. Also, word has gotten out that we have better taxi services available now than we did in ’16,” and this has hopefully prevented some drinkers from getting behind the wheel.

Town Attorney Kevin Geiger then mentioned that, “with the gondola now running till 2 a.m. on weekends, I’m curious to see what the DUI numbers will look like in 2018.”

Council member Todd Brown brought up a recurring subject in Telluride: problems with code enforcement.

Kolar allowed that there has been some antagonism lately between code enforcement deputies and the people they cite. “Sometimes people are not civil,” he said, “and our officers take the brunt of the abuse there on the street.” However, he stressed, “well over 50 percent of the parking tickets we issued were warnings.”

He added, “We’ve been accused of generating revenue with code enforcement, but that’s not the case when 50 percent of citations are warnings. We issue these to maintain order on our (often crowded) streets, not as a revenue trap.”

Still, the TMD report listed 4,964 parking tickets last year compared to 4,111 in 2016 — a 20 percent increase.

Council members prodded Kolar on officer behavior as well.

Said Mayor Sean Murphy, “I’ve heard that our officers look like SWAT team commandos when they do bar checks: Why is that?”

Answered Kolar, “A couple of years ago, our officers were given the choice to wear a tactical vest beneath their uniform or over their uniform. The option is up to the officer. Many chose to wear the (bulkier) tactical vest over the uniform because it holds gear that previously was held on their belts, which relieves stress on their backs.”

Murphy asked about the status of body cameras on deputies. “We went to a body camera program three years ago,” Kolar said. “Prior to that time we had dash cams in vehicles, but it was tough to keep those up and running and they were expensive.”

Asked if body-cam footage was available for all deputy interactions, Kolar replied, “It’s not mandated that they be turned on for all citizen contacts, but they are for traffic stops. For privacy reasons, we can’t always turn on the cameras each time we interact with the public.”

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, council members were updated on the Telluride Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Master Plan by project manager Karen Guglielmone.

She noted the treatment plant was first built in 1987 and is approaching its capacity limit. Metals, nutrients and contaminants were discussed, with the thrust being that it’s important to treat waste water.

Guglielmone cited a Seattle Times report that read: As more and more American communities grapple with opioid addiction, the human toll of the epidemic has grown in both scope and severity. And now, scientists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have found evidence that drug’s impact has literally flowed downstream to affect marine life, as well.

Specifically, they used mussels as a barometer of pollution in the waters off Seattle, and discovered that oxycodone is now present enough in the marine environment there for shellfish to test positive.”

Explained a biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, “What we eat and what we excrete goes into the Puget Sound. This tells me there’s a lot of people taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound area.”