Craig sees more violent crime due to post-pandemic domestic violence and possibly an increase in drug trafficking

Rainbow fentanyl was seized in Grand Junction on August 31, the first time the drug has appeared on the West Rim in this form.
Photo courtesy of Grand Junction Police

Craig Police continue to see an increase in violent crime over last year as a result of the pandemic and amid the growing nationwide fentanyl epidemic.

On Tuesday, October 11, Craig Police Chief Michael Cochran updated Craig City Council on the department’s activity in September. Now that the department is better staffed, the police are able to provide better traffic coverage and participate in more community engagement activities.

Still, Cochran said the department remained busy in September.

“Crimes against people have increased since last year by about 105%,” Cochran said. “Other than that, everything has a little fluctuation but nothing bigger.”

From January to September, 244 crimes against persons were recorded against 119 crimes against persons recorded during the same period in 2021.

“You always hear about the increase in violent crime in big cities,” said board member Chris Nichols. “We’re seeing a 105% increase in violent crime – given that the numbers are lower – but it’s still quite alarming.”

According to Cochran, part of the increase was the result of disputes from the Rainbow family gathering over the summer, but none of those calls involved local residents.

Cochran said the department typically receives about 40 crimes against people per month, and most of them are domestic violence cases.

“A lot of those numbers are recidivism,” Cochran said. “If someone has a protection order, every time they break the order, even if it’s just a text message, a warrant will be issued. And unfortunately you have people who will sometimes test these orders.

Changing household dynamics over the past two years may also be contributing to the rise in domestic violence. Cochran said the full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be known for some time, but Craig police are seeing more cases involving people working from home and being home more often.

“We are noticing the increase in call volumes,” Cochran said. “Both agencies partner with Open Heart Advocates and are able to offer many services that, in the long term, reduce domestic violence.”

Craig Mayor Ryan Hess has requested a report detailing the number of fentanyl seizures at the end of the year to see if there is a correlation.

“Because we’re seeing an increase in crime and there’s also an increase in fentanyl across the country,” Hess said.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approved by the Food and Drug Administration for pain relief, but has recently re-emerged illegally. Fentanyl is said to be 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. Mixed with other drugs, even a small amount of fentanyl can be deadly.

In August, there was a large seizure of rainbow-colored fentanyl pills in Grand Junction, and Cochran said brightly colored pills were also found in Denver. Fentanyl comes in many forms, including pills, powders, and blocks that look like sidewalk chalk.

DEA officials say rainbow fentanyl is designed to look like other drugs — complete with counterfeit prescription pads — to appeal to teens and young adults, but authorities fear the pills not be mistaken for candy.

“I don’t want you to believe that if you go to Walmart to buy a bag of candy, it will have fentanyl in it; it’s not, Cochran said. “The case is that the people who bring it get better at bringing it without getting caught.”

Cochran said there was no rainbow-colored fentanyl found in Craig, but he urges anyone who sees something on the streets not to pick it up and not touch it.

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