The Aspen Police Department is more closely tracking calls involving mental-health issues, an approach reflected in the 50 percent increase of such cases in 2018 versus the previous year.
Bill Linn, an assistant police chief, said the increase is due, in part, because the department is recording mental-health issues in all of its calls for service, not just when someone is detained, perhaps involuntarily, for their behavior.
“The difference in those numbers [between 2017 and 2018] is a reflection of us making a determined effort to count those, to help us figure out what’s going on in the community,” he said. “It could be a theft call, but there may have been a mental-health component.”
Given the increased reporting, the number of such calls rose from 171 in 2017 to 258 last year (before the new categorization, the department in 2016 reported only 35 mental-health cases).
Overall, the annual report on crime in Aspen showed few changes last year from 2017. Crimes against people rose in 2018 to 281 versus 228 in 2017 — though well off the 326 the department tallied in 2015.
The category included eight sexual assaults, up from five in 2017. But the largest increases were for much more minor crimes: Disorderly conduct cases increased from 73 in 2017 to 94 in 2018, and there were 106 harassment incidents versus 86 the previous year.
Cases of domestic violence and restraining-order violations also increased, the former rising from 22 in 2017 to 32 last year, and the latter up 31 versus 23.
While the number of burglary cases fell to a four-year low, theft cases were up slightly, including small upticks in shoplifting and the purloining of 33 skis (compared to 28 in 2017) and 73 bikes (eight more than in the previous year).
Calls involving bears dropped a surprising 72 percent, aided by a decent natural food supply for the animals and, perhaps, better garbage-containment habits by residents. There were only 169 such calls last year, well off the 615 in 2017 and a four-year low.
Police officers made 3,461 traffic stops, down from the 4,159 made the previous year.
The Aspen Police Department responded to 22,132 calls for service in 2018, nearly 2,000 fewer versus 2017, but the 375 arrests were the highest in four years.
Linn said he was pleased by the numbers, which he said show the community is safe for residents and law enforcement, and reinforce that “Aspen is such a great place to live.”