All in all, there were significantly fewer crimes overall committed and fewer individuals arrested in Utah last year than during the previous five years, according to recently released statewide statistics.
The Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification published the annual Crime in Utah report last week with documentation and details about all manner of crimes committed in 2018.
The yearly report is a compilation of data from local law enforcement agencies to “give governmental leaders and citizens a better understanding of criminal activity in the state.”
Last year, a total of 80,622 index crimes were committed, a nearly 12% decrease from the total number of index crimes in 2017.
Burglary, motor vehicle thefts, arson and larceny all decreased by an average of 13%, according to the report. The total number of robberies and homicides also fell significantly by 17% and 8%, respectively.
But the number of reported rapes increased by 4.5%, making this the fifth year in a row the number of sexual assaults has increased.
Hate crimes also increased by almost 50%, going from 35 in 2017 to 52 in 2018.
More than 111,830 people were arrested by authorities in 2018, which is lower than the total number of those arrested in the past five years, the report stated.
Firearms were used in 40% of homicides, with 16% of deaths involving family relationships and 84% involved other relations among strangers, acquaintances and significant others.
Many of the homicides happened due to arguments or other and unknown circumstances, the report stated.
Five homicides were reported in Utah County last year, including the death of Lisa Vilate Williams, 26, who was shot and killed in November 2018 by her boyfriend’s ex-wife.
Police reported Lehi high school teacher, Chelsea Watrous Cook, 32, entered the apartment of her ex-husband and shot Williams several times in front of Cook’s 3-year-old twins.
There was also one negligent homicide reported in Utah County last year when a Pleasant Grove utility truck driver slammed into a station wagon waiting at an intersection in Provo.
The crash killed a 2-year-old girl and severely injured her parents and younger sister. But the driver did not serve any jail time as the parents asked the judge for leniency and extended forgiveness to the driver.
The report also honored South Salt Lake Police Department Officer David Romrell who died in the line of duty in November 2018.
The bureau reported there were 4,633 sworn law enforcement officers in Utah as of October 2018. Of the total number of full-time officers, 357 were women and 4,276 officers were men.
Female employees account for 60% of all full-time civilian law enforcement employees in 2018, the report stated.
Alexis Palmer was not surprised when she saw survey results that showed one in 10 Utah Valley University students had gone a full day without eating because they couldn’t afford food.
It’s something Palmer, the dean of students and associate vice president of student life at UVU, commonly hears from students.
“These are the struggles and the issues that they are going through,” she said.
Those numbers and stories are the reason why UVU launched the Coordinated Access to Resources and Education, or CARE, task force this spring as a way to tackle food insecurity, housing insecurity, health and safety among its student population.
The task force includes a pilot program for emergency scholarships to provide students with $50 to $500 to pay for food, rent or medical costs.
Of 382 students who answered a question about food insecurity on UVU’s 2018 fall student opinion survey, 38% said they sometimes and 25% said they often could not afford to eat balanced meals. Of the 257 students who answered that they’ve at times been unable to afford to eat balanced meals, 51% said they’d been hungry, but didn’t eat because there wasn’t enough money for food, and 7% said they’d prefer not to answer the question.
The majority of the students who answered they’d gone hungry said they hadn’t considered accessing the food pantry, were unaware UVU had one in the Center for Social Impact and didn’t know how to use it.
The survey also found 11.1% of the 642 students who answered a question about housing insecurity said they were probably or definitely at immediate risk of losing their housing due to unaffordable rent or safety concerns.
“One way to address housing insecurity is to remove other barriers, financial barriers, which is why food insecurity is so important,” Palmer said.
She said while the survey showed that less than 1% of students were staying somewhere that wasn’t meant to be housing, it still equates to about 180 students who don’t have somewhere to sleep.
The university has food vouchers to help students receive a hot meal on campus, is looking at food recovery models to use uneaten food on campus, has increased its advertising for the food pantry and launched http://uvu.edu/studentcare to show available resources. It also plans to address mental health resources in the future.
The emergency scholarships are being funded with $60,000 in donated funds. Palmer said that about a fourth of the funds budgeted for the fiscal year, which begins in the summer, have been awarded.
While the emergency scholarships are being managed through the Women’s Success Center, Palmer said students do not need to identify as female to apply. Students can apply by going in or calling the office. A committee reviews the applications and works to get the funding to students within 48 hours.
Palmer said students’ basic needs have to be met before they can perform well in classes.
“It is not because college students are lazy,” she said. “It is because they may not have had enough money to have a hot meal, or any meal in the last 24 hours, because they had to use that money to pay rent.”
To donate to the emergency scholarship fund, contact Palmer or the UVU Foundation and specify that donations should go the CARE initiative.
Palmer said she hopes more donors step forward so the university can continue to provide the scholarships.
“I hope our UVU community and our extended community really recognizes the basic needs, if those aren’t being met, everything else just isn’t going to happen,” she said. “We have to take care of those basic needs first.”
NORTH OGDEN — What started as an outpouring of support last year after the death of Brent Taylor in Afghanistan is morphing into what backers hope becomes an annual event centered on Veterans Day.
The aim, though, isn’t to honor just Taylor, who had served as North Ogden’s mayor. Kirk Chugg of Follow the Flag North Ogden said planned Flag Week activities in North Ogden, which go from Nov. 2-12, are meant as a tip of the hat to everyone who has served in the U.S. military, now or in the past.
“I hope that it kind of brings to the forefront of our community that Veterans Day is something to be celebrated,” said Chugg. His aim, he said, is to raise the profile of the day and convey “that we see (veterans) in the community and we appreciate their service. I just really want to say thank you to them.”
Focused on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, activities start Nov. 2, when The Major, a giant oversized flag, will be unfurled in Coldwater Canyon, just east of North Ogden. That’s a day before the one-year anniversary of Taylor’s death in Afghanistan, on Nov. 3, 2018, while nearing the end of a year-long deployment there with the Utah Army National Guard.
The giant 150 feet by 78 feet flag, finished last April, is modeled after a flag flown by Follow the Flag in Pleasant Grove each year to mark the Fourth of July. That Pleasant Grove flag was the banner flown in Coldwater Canyon last year.
On Nov. 3, a Veterans Day Community Program, as it’s dubbed, will be held at the Barker Park Amphitheater in North Ogden from 5-6 p.m. Jennie Taylor, Brent Taylor’s widow, will speak and local music groups will perform as well.
“Day of service” activities are planned for Nov. 11 at the North View Senior Center.
Organizers are also sponsoring a Field of Honor, a display of 300 5 feet by 3 feet flags, each with a tag bearing the name and other details of military servicemen and women from the area. They will be on display at Barker Park for the Nov. 3 activities and then be moved to the plaza in front of North Ogden City Hall, 505 E. 2600 North, where they will remain until Nov. 12, also when The Major is to come down.
Organizers seek the names of area servicemen, serving and retired, living and dead, to place on the tags on the Field of Honor flags. More details, including how to submit names, can be found at healingfield.com/followtheflag.
Taylor’s death shocked many in North Ogden, the rest of Utah and beyond. He had taken a year leave as mayor to serve in Afghanistan and was killed, U.S. officials say, by a member of the Afghani special forces group he was helping train who turned on him.
“It’s still very fresh. Those of us who knew him, we think of him every day,” Chugg said.
However, Carin Chugg, another Flag Week organizer and the wife of Kirk Chugg, noted the deaths in recent months of two other service members with connections to the North Ogden area, also a shock to many. U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Jared Reaves died July 5 of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Elliott Robbins died June 30 while serving in Afghanistan in a non-combat related incident.
The role the U.S. armed forces serve in protecting the nation has “been fresh in the community’s mind for a year,” she said.
The activities will come during Election Day, Nov. 5, and Kirk Chugg said that, too, figures in the timing of the activities. Brent Taylor, as an elected official, was a big proponent of the U.S. democratic process, while Chugg noted the role of the armed forces in protecting the U.S. system of government.
Voting is “not a right to be taken lightly. You should fill out your ballot and make sure it gets in the box,” Chugg said.
Police have issued a search warrant for a 17-year-old’s phone after he reportedly threatened a shooting at Skyridge High School in Lehi.
Lehi Police Department officers were called on Sept. 16 after the teen said he wanted to shoot kids at school, according to an affidavit for a search warrant in the Fourth District Court in Provo. The teen reportedly told an adult he wanted to be in a gang and was meeting with a gang member that night.
The teen planned to drive by Skyridge High School and shoot everyone he saw in the parking lot, according to the search warrant affidavit. Messages on his phone reportedly showed he was meeting with someone for an AK-47.
The Alpine School District was unaware of the threat, according to Kimberly Bird, a spokeswoman for the district. Skyridge High School did not have an increased police presence at the school following the threat.
Bird said the student is no longer enrolled in the Alpine School District.
The warrant is for the teen’s phone and “any and all data, photos, texts, chats, applications, passwords, usernames or any other evidence that may be pertinent to the investigation of threats of violence/terrorism,” according to the affidavit.
Lehi Police Department Chief Darren Paul did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When LaDawna Cherepovich found out she was pregnant with her third daughter, she was taken by surprise; after all, her two older daughters were already 9 and 11.
Cherepovich and her husband, Glenn, were in for another surprise when Brooklyn McKenzie Cherepovich decided she was ready to come into the world eight weeks premature.
LaDawna Cherepovich said she and her husband had a difficult time conceiving, so they had given up hope before Brooklyn, or “Brookie,” was born.
“And then she finally decided to come along after lots of waiting and prayers,” she said. “So she’s our little miracle.”
The Cherepovich’s community, made up of neighbors and church members, supported them by watching their two older girls so LaDawna and Glenn could visit Brookie in the hospital after she was born. Friends also donated clothes, changing tables and other baby things.
Thankfully, despite being born premature, Brookie didn’t have any other health problems. It was a different experience for her mom though — LaDawna Cherepovich explained that preemie babies, unlike babies born closer to their due dates, don’t like to snuggle as much.
“Sometimes, you’d hold her and she’d just be so fussy and I’d be like, I don’t know what to do,” LaDawna Cherepovich said. “And then I’d lay her down on a blanket and she’d just be so happy.”
Brookie maintained her independence as she grew, with her mom describing her as “sassy, energetic and independent.” Although she was born early, LaDawna Cherepovich said Brookie didn’t have any developmental delays — in fact, she learned to walk and talk fairly early, and unlike her older sisters ended up being quite the climber. She was also quite tall, her mom said, so people constantly mistook her for being older.
Brookie loved to sing and dance. One time, at an outdoor concert, she danced so hard she actually fell and broke her leg.
“She entertained us a lot with her dance. And even with her broken leg, she learned how to scoot very quickly,” Glenn Cherepovich said.
On Sept. 6, Brookie was found unresponsive in her home and taken to the hospital, where she later passed away.
The next day, LaDawna Cherepovich said, her family was just in a fog. But then a little light broke through: their neighbors.
Neighbors showed up to mow the Cherepovich’s lawn. They came to visit with the family. They cleaned their house and did their laundry. They brought meals — Glenn Cherepovich said their freezer is stuffed with homemade meals from neighbors.
Friends and even strangers have brought flowers and gifts to the Cherepovich’s door. Church members were able to get necklaces featuring a pendant with Brookie’s thumbprint made for the whole family.
One of the major ways the community came together was through a benefit concert for the Cherepovich family. LaDawna and her family have been friends with singer-songwriter Cherie Call and her family for several years, dating back to when Brookie was first born. Before Brookie passed away, LaDawna Cherepovich and Call were planning to have a neighborhood get-together where Call would perform. After Brookie’s passing, Call and her husband told the family they were going to take over the planning and turn the event into a benefit concert to help with medical and funeral expenses.
Call wrote and performed a special song for Brookie titled “Remembering an Angel,” which is available to download with a small donation that will also go to benefit the Cherepovich family. Call also invited Hillary Weeks to perform, and the Cherepovich’s niece Brooklyn — Brookie’s namesake — also sang and performed one of Brookie’s favorite songs, “The Middle.” Local bakery Fillings and Emulsions donated macarons to be served at the concert as well.
Approval for the concert was cleared with the city quickly — Glenn Cherepovich said he isn’t entirely sure how it happened, but it happened. The city also promoted the concert on its local news channel and sent someone to film it. After the concert, the city ran clips from the performance on the local channel and invited people to donate. A few days later, Chick-Fil-A reached out to the family and offered to do a fundraiser for the family as well at their closest restaurant.
The Cherepoviches have also connected with complete strangers who have also lost children. Glenn Cherepovich visited the bookstore at Brigham Young University on business, and met a man who he learned also had an “angel baby” pass away. He said they ended up talking for the better part of the hour, exchanging tears and hugs.
“Through all this horrible tragedy, the good part of it has been just seeing the ... overwhelming love and support that’s been given to us,” LaDawna Cherepovich said. “It just makes us want to be better. To give back to others when they’re in need. Hopefully they don’t go through something like this. But it’s just showed us a beautiful example of just how to be there for people in their time of need.”
In a way, the continued support of family, friends and strangers — even if they don’t know what to say, just being there is the best way to honor Brookie’s memory.
“Brooklyn ... she would always be conscious of others. She could always sense when somebody might not be feeling well,” Glenn Cherepovich said. He described how, at the funeral of a family member earlier this year, little 4-year-old Brookie went and sat by the family member’s daughter at the graveside the entire time.
“Even at a young age ... knowing to take that extra step,” he said. “It’s taught us a lot.”
Spunky, “boss-of-the-house” Brookie made a lot of memories that still make her parents laugh, like when she would bang on the piano and sing, or use an American Girl doll cello as a “biolin” so she could be like her older sisters.
Glenn Cherepovich said they used to joke that Brookie waited nine years to join their family, she could have waited eight more weeks to be born — but now, they’re glad they had those extra eight weeks with her. And they’re grateful for the ways her memory will live on. Brookie’s heart valves and corneas were saved to be donated to another child in need, something Glenn Cherepovich said he had zero hesitation in doing.
“It’s not even a question. Anything you can do to help another person or child,” he said.
People who have lost a child and different grief counselors have told the Cherepoviches this first year will be the hardest — the first Halloween, the first Christmas, the first birthday. But with the support of their community, they’ll make it through.
“There’s nothing that you can do to make it better. But I like it when people just come to talk to me about anything other than (Brookie’s) death,” Glenn Cherepovich said. “A lot of people will say, ‘Well, I felt like I should go see you, but I wasn’t sure.’ If you feel like helping somebody who’s going through something ... it’s never going to be bad to show your love and support for someone. So if you feel like doing it, just do it.
“We celebrate her life, we have so many incredible, great memories of this 4-year-old girl, and several of the people that were with her when she passed, were with us at the hospital when she was born. So that’s just a testament of friendship.”
A GoFundMe for the family is live, with more than $12,000 donated.