- A campaign ad claims Undersheriff Shane Ferrari's leadership has resulted in increased crime in San Juan County.
- Candidate Tomm Bolack criticized the sheriff's response to his ad.
- Sheriff Ken Christesen responded to Bolack's campaign ad on Facebook.
- The sheriff says the ad misleads residents and harms morale at the Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff candidate Tommy Bolack: 'Politicians lie but numbers don't'
Christesen, the sheriff since 2012, is not running for re-election because of term limits.
Bolack is running against Undersheriff Shane Ferrari in the Republican primary election. The election will be held on June 5, and the winner likely will face independent or write-in candidates during the November general election.
The Bolack ad claims that under Ferrari’s leadership, crime rates have increased in San Juan County.
“Number one, Shane is not the sheriff,” Christesen said when reached by phone today. “And it’s not under him that these things happen. It’s under my direction.”
Christesen said in his Facebook video that calls for service have dropped nearly 24 percent since 2014, arrests are down 2 percent and reports are down 3.6 percent. He said incidents of people driving while intoxicated are up 13.5 percent, and traffic stops have increased by 29 percent.
Bolack responds to Christesen's comments on Facebook
When reached by phone, Bolack referred The Daily Times to a response posted on his Facebook page.
“When I entered this campaign, I knew the good ole boy network would say or do anything to cling to power,” Bolack states in the response. “Sadly for them, we aren’t backing down, instead we are doubling down. We’ve heard from San Juan County citizens for months that their biggest issue is crime and drugs yet my opponent continually makes jokes about crime on social media. Our campaign is currently running ads that have rattled the cages of the status quo.”
Bolack criticized Christesen for recording the video and accused him of using taxpayer money on campaign activities.
Sheriff says ad includes false, deceiving information
Christesen said he was correcting wrong and deceiving information that was put out by the Bolack campaign. He said the ad was harmful to morale at the Sheriff’s Office.
“I think it paints a very, very ugly picture of our community and our Sheriff’s Office,” Ferrari said about the ad.
The ad alleges violent crime is up 51 percent in Farmington.
“The crime numbers that he’s talking about are ludicrous,” Christesen said.
Christesen and Ferrari say crime has decreased since 2014 in San Juan County.
Bolack said the statistics for his ad came from the Sheriff’s Office or crime data that is accessible to the public.
“Politicians lie but numbers don’t,” Bolack said in his response.
A 24/7 Wall Street report issued earlier this year stated that Farmington is one of eight U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas that reported a violent crime increase of more than 50 percent between 2011 and 2016. The report was based on data from the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report.
The metropolitan statistical area encompasses the entire county. About two-thirds of the metropolitan statistical area is Navajo Nation land.
“They have a lot of violent crime on the reservation,” Ferrari said, adding that the Sheriff’s Office is very limited in its ability to respond to crime on the Navajo Nation.
He said the Sheriff’s Office is secondary to the municipal police in Farmington, Aztec and Bloomfield. But he said residents can choose to reach out to the Sheriff’s Office rather than municipal police.
Sheriff's Office provides crime statistics
San Juan County Sheriff's Office Detective Lt. Kyle Lincoln emailed The Daily Times a copy of the statistics Christesen cites in his video. The document also includes the information the department sends the FBI for the Uniform Crime Report.
Homicide, rape, robbery and assaults are considered violent crimes.
The Sheriff's Office saw a 300-percent increase in homicides in 2017. There were four homicides in 2017, compared with one homicide in 2016. Lincoln explained that is because the Sheriff's Office became the lead agency in the Aztec High School shooting, which left two students dead. He said normally those numbers would have shown up on the Aztec Police Department's crime statistics.
Lincoln said the Sheriff's Office responds to an average of two to three homicides each year.
The number of rape cases the Sheriff's Office investigates has increased by 93 percent since 2013, including 18 percent in the 2017. Lincoln said that is not necessarily because more rapes have occurred. He said people are becoming more likely to report rapes. He said the 18 percent increase could be because 18 percent more people were willing to report a rape to the Sheriff's Office.
Robberies were down nearly 47 percent in 2017, but the Sheriff's Office saw increases in 2015 and 2016. Lincoln said robbery statistics also can be tied to external factors like unemployment.
Assaults have increased about 33 percent since 2013, but were down 14 percent in 2017.
Lincoln said the numbers provided in the ad are from all local agencies, including the Navajo Nation.
"I'm not saying that those numbers aren't correct for our area, but they're not correct for our agency," Lincoln said.
Bolack says he would bring back the special enforcement team
Bolack also criticized the decision to end the special enforcement team and said he would bring the unit back if elected.
According to The Daily Times archives, the special enforcement team focused on neighborhood issues such as drug houses and gang activity.
Ferrari said the team of four deputies was assembled during Christesen’s first term. A decrease in the number of officers led to the team being dismantled during his second term.
“Keeping deputies on the streets in a bad economy is hard,” Christesen said.
He said the Sheriff’s Office has had a 10 percent reduction in manpower due to the recession, and he praised the men and women who work for the department.
“We needed those positions on patrol,” Ferrari said about the decision to end the special enforcement team.
Ferrari said the special enforcement team was slated to be reassembled this spring, but when the Aztec High School shooting happened in December, the Sheriff’s Office re-examined its priorities and decided to put those four officers in school security positions instead.
Ferrari's campaign ads focus on experience
Ferrari has also been running campaign ads. The ads focus on his experience in law enforcement. The ads state the county needs experience rather than a millionaire.
“I believe this election has to do with experience,” Ferrari said.
Ferrari has served 20 years at the Sheriff's Office. He was appointed undersheriff in 2014 after former Undersheriff Ron Anderson retired.
Bolack has limited law enforcement experience through his service as a volunteer special deputy. He was suspended from that role and told The Daily Times earlier this year that his desire to continue serving the community prompted him to run for office. Bolack told The Daily Times he was suspended for erratic driving.
Ferrari said he will not be running attack ads against Bolack.
“I’m running a gentleman’s race, and I’m going to continue to do so,” he said.
Bolack promises to be tough on illegal immigration
Bolack’s ads say he will work with President Donald Trump's administration to crack down on illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
Christesen said the Sheriff’s Office has worked with immigration officials, and he was awarded the 2015 partnership award from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and homeland security investigators.
Sheriff offers advice to candidates
Christesen encouraged candidates to get the facts straight before issuing campaign ads and to talk about what they will do.
“If you think you can do a better job, just say it and tell how,” Christesen said.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.