The Monticello City Council held their regularly scheduled meeting Jan. 8, a meeting that lasted just over two hours.
As usual, the meeting started with an invocation or a prayer, which Mayor Tim Young performed after no member of the public volunteered for the task.
Monticello Police Chief Clayton Black gave the only department report of the evening to the council shortly after the meeting began.
“I’ve compiled some numbers for comparison over the year,” Black said. “It’s kind of a measurement. It’s kind of hard to measure the effect the police department has, but there are a few ways that we can.”
Black told the council there were 543 total incidents the Monticello Police Department responded to in 2018.
“That number is about 40 lower than last year and 10 higher than two years ago,” Black said, adding that the department also conducted four search warrants over the course of the year. “In 2017 we did one [search warrant], and in 2016 we did six.”
Black said the searches in 2016, which were mostly drug-related, put a “pretty big dent” in some of the criminal operations in Monticello. Black believes it made the department’s 2017 a little easier following the searches but stated 2018 saw an increase, something he described as a rollercoaster.
“Four is a pretty good number, and we do have the county task force that helps us on that,” Black said. “So it’s not just the Monticello Police Department.”
A list was provided to the council which showed all of the calls the department responded to in 2018.
“The number that stuck out to me was the possession charges [distribution or possession],” Black said. “It’s 61 and those are all drug calls.
“Some of our other high calls – the animal problems – we were at 40. Citizen assist – and that could be something that is not too serious – that was at 24. Traffic crashes were pretty high...and suspicious circumstances.”
The highest amount of calls came from people requesting vehicle identification number inspections from the department. There were 99 in total.
“In 2018 we wrote a total of 1,125 citations,” Black said of misdemeanor and traffic tickets issued by the department.
Of the 61 drug-related citations, Black said around 60 came from traffic stops.
“We’ve seen a lot more drugs,” Black said. “I don’t know. Colorado has been open for five years, but apparently the business is just starting to now boom. We’ve seen a lot more drugs coming through Monticello, and those are found by traffic stops.”
Mayor Tim Young asked Black if the majority of the drug citations were marijuana-related. Black confirmed that 90 percent of the drug citations are marijuana-related where the product comes from a dispensary.
“I wanted to point that out because we are not living in a drug-ridden community,” Black said.
“Most of those are found on traffic stops, and they are not our locals. Those are just people passing through. We do have, maybe five out of those 60 are locals.”
Young then asked Black how he thinks the new Utah marijuana laws will affect some of the citations written last year.
“So if somebody has a medical card, even from another state, they can be in possession legally in our state,” Black said. “But if their marijuana exceeds the amount that the state of Utah allows them to have, then it’s still a criminal violation.
“If it’s at or below the amount that Utah allows them to have, but is not packaged properly, then it could be an infraction.”
Black said the department has received training on the new marijuana laws, but that it’s something that is new to the officers. He estimated it may take the department up to six months to become fully acclimated to the new marijuana laws.
“It’s going to be tough for us to figure out, you know,” Black said. “Once we do it for six months, then it won’t be a big deal.
“But right now it’s new to us and you’ve got to figure out are they in possession legally but it’s not packaged correctly?
“Utah is not selling it anywhere at this point, nor are they giving cards. So a doctor can write a prescription.
“Say I pulled over a car, and I can smell marijuana but somebody says, ‘Hey, I’ve got this prescription.’ That still works for now.
“But then, where Utah is not set up to sell it at this point, it’s like, ‘Hey, where are you getting your marijuana?’”
Young pointed out that it is still legal for someone to buy marijuana from another state like Colorado if the packaging and amounts are of the legal Utah limit and the person has a card or prescription.
“That’s kind of where it gets messy,” Black said. “The doctor is not explaining to someone, ‘I’ll write you a prescription for marijuana but you have to have less than this, it has to be carried such a way, it has to be packaged in such a way.’
“It can’t be burned, but if you see marijuana in a pipe, that is still illegal. You can’t burn to ingest it, but it will work itself out as far as we are concerned.”
The topic of conversation eventually led to driving under the influence arrests. Black said the department had 10 in 2018, which is a significant increase from recent years. The 10 DUIs in 2018 were part of the 109 people who were booked into the county jail.
“If you look at the comparison years, it went way up this year,” Black said. “And again, that is in correlation with the traffic stops and the possessions.”
The next Monticello City Council will hold their next meeting on Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Hideout Community Center.