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Crime Rates in Idaho Falls and Bonneville County

Bonneville County is a hugely diverse place economically, geographically, and culturally. It includes Idaho’s largest city outside of the Boise area, rich farmland, and wild areas. It stretches from the Wyoming boarder in the east to the INL site in the west. In an area so large and diverse it is hard to make any generalization about the crime rate. We have somewhat limited data with the Idaho Falls Police Department and Bonneville County Sheriff’s Department reporting crime statistics to the Idaho State Police. Unfortunately, outside of Idaho Falls, we do not have good data on where crime takes place in Bonneville County. Idaho Falls criminal defense attorneys try to use this data, in conjunction with other sources, as a source of information about the local community that can help benefit their clients, and inform decision making. If you have been charged with a crime in Idaho Falls or Bonneville County, the criminal defense lawyers at Racine Olson, PLLP can walk you through every element, and help you prepare the best defense possible.

Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls is a local hub for medical care, shopping, and culture. The city has far more infrastructure and business than its population of 61,535 would suggest, because its status as a local hub brings in people from all over. This is especially true during the summer months when tourist coming to see Yellowstone frequent local hotels and businesses. Even with all that extra traffic. Idaho Falls’s crime rate is significantly lower than the nearby cities of Blackfoot and Pocatello. This might be counterintuitive if you read the local paper, but Idaho Falls is a very safe city overall.

In 2018, Idaho Falls had a Group A crime rate of 5,465.3 per 100,000 people. Group A crime is a police category that encompasses most crime including violent crime, drug crime, most property crime, and theft crime. The only big things not included are DUIs, trespass, and disorderly conduct. It’s possible that this rate is misleading, as it only covers arrests made by the Idaho Fall Police Department. This is problematic because two other police departments, Bonneville County and the State Police, have overlapping jurisdiction with Idaho Falls, meaning they too can make arrests within city limits. It’s important to take any crime data with a grain of salt- police departments self-report, do not use uniform reporting rules, and jurisdictional issues are common.

Ammon

Directly adjacent to Idaho Falls, Ammon has large shopping centers and suburban development where once there was only farmland. Ammon has grown tremendously since the 1990’s and currently has a population of 16,475. It is impossible to say how much crime happens in Ammon because the reporting agency, the Bonneville County Sheriff, only reports county wide data.

It would be fair to guess that the crime rate in Ammon is similar to neighboring Idaho Falls, if maybe a little lower. There are two main indicators for crime rate, population and poverty level. Idaho Falls has a poverty rate of 14.8% versus Ammon’s 5.7%, and both have similar population densities.

Rural Bonneville County

About 2/3 of Bonneville County’s population lives in Idaho Falls or Ammon, despite those cities only making up 1.6% of the square mileage of the county. In other words, there are large areas of Bonneville County where there is way more barley and potatoes than people. Not surprisingly, with such a little population, crimes are few and far between. Like with Ammon, it is impossible to pinpoint crime rates for the rural areas of Bonneville County.

How to Put the Data Together

Here, we are using three main sources of information, the Idaho State Police, the US Census Bureau, and years of experience defending people accused of crimes. By taking a hard look at these data points we can put crime rates in context. For example, we know that burglaries are actually more common per person in Idaho Falls and Bonneville County that in the most densely populated place in Idaho, Ada County. Idaho Falls has 0.005 burglaries per person, Bonneville County has 0.003, and Ada County has 0.002. This is counter to most people’s assumptions that big cities are always more dangerous.

How we Use the Data

Despite the confusing reports, a criminal defense attorney serving Idaho Falls can use this information. In general, jurors from neighborhoods with higher rates of crime tend to be more sympathetic to criminal defendants. This may seem a little counterintuitive, but, in general, those people are more likely to know someone who has been accused of crime, and who has had their life turned upside-down by criminal charges. They may know someone who they think has been treated unfairly by the criminal justice system. By contrast, someone who has never come into contact with a criminal defendant may be extremely biased. They may assume that every criminal defendant is the shadowy figure they see depicted on television police dramas, that the police never lie, or that the defendant is usually guilty – none of which are true in real life. A criminal defense attorney in Idaho Falls can use this information to help make an educated guess as to what kind of jury a defendant will get. Given the relatively low rate of crime in Idaho Falls, we can make some assumptions about potential jurors. This assumption is even stronger for the rest of Bonneville County. This data, along with other information, will help to determine what the best way to handle a given case will be.

Another good use for this data is to combat the use of the phrase “high crime area” by police during motions to suppress evidence. Many police officers like to describe an incident as happening in a high crime area as a way to help establish reasonable suspicion for a stop. Courts have consistently said that “mere presence in a high crime area is not enough to support a reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.” State v. Zuniga, 143 Idaho 431, 435, 146 P.3d 697, 701 (Ct. App. 2006) (citing Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 124 (2000)). However, courts also have said that presence in a high crime area can be a factor in determining reasonable suspicion. State v. Bishop, 146 Idaho 804, 819, 203 P.3d 1203, 1218 (2009) (internal citations omitted).

In practice, this means that when police make a stop, they often sight being in a high crime area as a factor in their reasonable suspicion determination. For an attorney, knowing where these high crime areas actually are can help combat the overuse of the phrase high crime area in reasonable suspicion determinations. Winning a motion on reasonable suspicion can mean getting all of the evidence thrown out and winning the case.

Contact Us

The knowledgeable, experienced, and diligent attorneys at Racine Olson, PLLP are here to help you and your family when you need it the most. Whether a misdemeanor or felony, our Idaho criminal defense attorneys are prepared to guide you through the legal process and fight for you at every turn. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a consultation with the Racine Olson, PLLP team of criminal defense attorneys. You can also email us directly at racine@racinelaw.net. We stand ready to answer your questions and help solve your criminal defense needs.

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