Crime reported in Hopkins County the first six months of 2013 was the lowest it’s been in the first half of the year in at least 13 years. The 83 crimes reported from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2013, were 10 fewer than in the first six months of 2010, when the rate reached a new record low — a huge drop from the previous low of 144 set in 2006 and 15 percent less than 2012.
While the crime rate declined, Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office’s Uniform Crime Reporting numbers show the department’s clearance rate — the comparison of cases reported versus the number of cases cleared by arrest, conviction or other means — rising. These figures reflect only offenses reported to, recorded by and cleared from the books at Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office from Jan. 1 to June 30.
“We’re just happy we’ve been able to maintain or do better on the clearance rate the last couple of years. We always want that to be high. We want to be able to find the defendant in these crimes and proceed with the justice for the victims. That’s also why the property recovery rate is up. We are definitely excited about that. The more we get back, the more it might help with insurance. The more we get back the less that goes on your insurance,” said Hopkins County Sheriff Butch Adams.
Last year, the clearance rate was 82.65 percent for the first six months of the year, that is 81 cases cleared and 98 reported. The clearance rate for the first part of 2013 was 85.95 percent, with only 10 fewer cases cleared than were recorded by HCSO.
Conversely, while crime did drop in three — aggravated assaults, larceny thefts and arson — of the nine major crime reporting categories, it also rose in four other categories. However, the differences in the first three were enough to lower the overall crime rate by 15 offenses.
Two categories were also unchanged. There were no homicides and no robberies reported in the first half of either 2012 or 2013.
There was one more rape case in 2013 than 2012, but since there was only one case in 2012, that’s not as marked an increase as in the vehicle theft category, which rose from two in 2012 to eight in 2013. The clearance rate for rapes over the last three years has been 100 percent, with as many cases cleared as were recorded. In only four other years since 2001, when HCSO and News-Telegram began tracking crime statistics in the nine major crime reporting categories, have there been more than two forcible rapes — six in 2006 when only three cases were cleared in the first half of the year, six in 2008 when five cases were cleared, six in 2011 when the clearance rate was 100 percent, and three in 2009 when only two rape cases were cleared. Only in one other year, 2003, were two rapes recorded; two rapes were cleared during those six months too. Five other years showed only one rape, and two years had none reported during the first six months of the year.
The clearance rate for vehicle thefts for the first half of 2012 would be hard to beat in any other year — 200 percent, with twice as many cases solved as were reported; authorities noted that this generally means cases carried over from previous years or reporting periods were cleared along with cases reported during the first half of 2012. The 2013 vehicle theft rate, while the second highest in 14 years, was still only half the record 16 posted in 2008.
“Vehicle thefts are up but we’ve recovered more, including some for other agencies and some that won’t show up until the next set of reports because they weren’t recorded until July 1 or after. Some are cases we’re still working and should affect the next set of totals,” Adams said.
There were nine aggravated assaults reported this year, the same as in 2009 and three fewer than in the first half of last year. The clearance rate this year was more than 100 percent, as 10 cases were cleared. In 2012, 10 aggravated assaults were cleared, two fewer than cases reported. The year with the fewest number of aggravated assaults was 2010, when only one case was recorded and one cleared. Next was 2006, when six aggravated assault cases were reported and nine cleared. The record high for aggravated assaults was set at 30 in 2008, a year in which the clearance rate was 100 percent.
“Agg assaults — I believe we’re seeing several more involving children. Unfortunately, these are crimes that we can’t do anything about until they are reported. When they are, we find out what’s going on, locate the actor quickly — especially when children are involved — and take care of them, getting them arrested where it applies, removing them from the situation so it’s safer for the victim. We take these crimes VERY seriously,” Adams said.
While the most violent assault category — aggravated assaults — went down, simple assaults were up. There were 21 cases reported and 20 cleared compared to 2012 when 18 cases were recorded and 19 cleared. The fewest number of simple assaults reported during the first half of the year since 2001 was 16 in 2011, a year in which 13 cases were cleared. The high was set at 58 in 2001.
The number of arsons recorded this year declined 200 percent. Two arsons were reported and cleared during the first half of 2012; there were no arsons in 2013. In only one other year, 2003, were arsons recorded — three with only one case cleared, according to UCR data.
The largest categorical change was in larceny thefts. There were 21 fewer larceny thefts in 2013 than the 40 reported in 2012, when 27 cases were cleared. This year, there were 19 larcenies recorded — a new record low — and 16 cleared. The most larcenies reported during the first six months of the year since 2001 was 70 in 2004, a year in which there were 204 crimes reported. (2004 had the second highest crime rate overall, second only to 2001, when 214 crimes were recorded. The clearance rate in 2004 was only 56.86 percent and in 2001 was 61.58 percent.)
“Larcenies were down a good bit. Hopefully, we got the information out on the radio and in the newspaper cautioning citizens to beware of people who want to do jobs that sound too good to be true — people were more aware of it,” Adams said.
There was only one more burglary in the first half of 2013 than in 2012, but there was also one more case cleared this year than last. That’s 24 total burglaries reported and 19 burglary cases cleared. Incidentally, the record low for burglaries reported in the first half of the year was 23 last year. The high for burglary cases was 68, posted in 2001.
Adams noted that in some instances his deputies have done all the leg work and warrants have been secured or are in the process of being secured in connection with additional burglaries, but in those, the defendant had yet to be arrested by July 1. Those cases, while considered “solved” by many won’t be “cleared” on the books until the suspect or defendant has been arrested or convicted of the offense.
“A lot of this type of crime is from people from out of county, so it takes longer to find a suspect –?unless we are lucky and the victim knows the suspect, but more often they have no idea who is responsible much less able to tell us anything about them,” Adams said.
He attributes the higher clearance rates over the last three years and burglary rates that have been considerably lower in the last seven years than the six years before to a number of factors.
Alert county residents, who some might call a nosy neighbor, are an invaluable resource. More people are alert to what’s going on and willing to report inconsistencies for deputies to check out.
“These are people looking out for their neighbors, those who call us about a suspicious vehicle in an area, or something that’s just not quite right. We often refer to them as the ‘nosy neighbor.’ We love the fact that they notice things and help us by having more eyes watching out in the county,” the sheriff said.
He also gives a lot of credit to his officers — patrol and criminal investigators who work together to get a quick jump on cases while leads are still “hot.”
“Patrol is more observant. They are able to get more information to investigators. We try to be out there on county roads as much as possible. Some cases, when the call load is heavier, are delayed in immediate response. If we are out having to chase cows, horses and donkeys that get out, it take time away from patrol. My deputies and investigators jump on things as soon as they can while the leads are hot. Getting on it quick is key. I’ve got a lot of young officers, energetic. All of my officers try real hard to do a service for the community. I appreciate that,” Adams said.
Adams said some cases, particularly burglaries can involve multiple defendants and multiple cities, even counties, and in some instances in the past other states. That takes time and effort to track down.
“Some cases have ended up having multiple defendants in multiple jurisdictions. One case I can think of had four defendants. The system has to deal with that,” Adams said.
He said working relationships HCSO has with other agencies and officers is an invaluable, too, which helps both HCSO and the other agencies.
“If we need backup, it’s great to know we can call on DPS and city police for help, to know they’ll be there. We are blessed to have such great working relationships with other agencies,” said Adams. “Just as we have help from other departments, we try to help them out too. As an example, we solved a burglary for Wood County that was a combination of us helping them and them helping us on burglary cases. We are a big help to each other.”
Having Cumby police out working the last few years, with Cumby city limits extended, has freed up sheriff’s deputies who previously had to cover that area too, according to Adams. Cumby police are also another resource deputies can call on to help out if say the sheriff’s office got a call on a county road in Cumby and deputies were all tied up; when available, CPD can be called on to help out. They also are another asset on the interstate, working traffic. HCSO tries to be available should CPD need backup on stops or priority calls. Both agencies also work alongside state troopers, emergency responders and firefighters at major traffic crashes in or near Cumby.
The constables taking over civil process this year has helped free up deputies too; previously the sheriff’s office had one deputy trained specifically for and dedicated to civil process. With all of those duties transferring to the constables, that gives the HCSO another deputy for patrol, the sheriff noted.
Adams credited the prosecutors and court system for expediting the judicial process more efficiently too, from the justice of the peace courts to the county and district attorneys’ offices and criminal courts, moving cases.
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