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Home News-Telegram News Hopkins County crime rate is second-lowest in 14 years

Hopkins County crime rate is second-lowest in 14 years

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The crime rate in Hopkins County in 2013 wasn’t as low as in 2012, but with fewer than 200 crimes reported, it was still the second lowest in 14 years. The clearance rate as officers worked more cases also dipped a bit, but still remained high at 78.4 percent, according to Uniform Crime Reporting data provided by Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office.

UCR reports include all cases entered by HCSO, and can include offenses from anywhere in the county including Sulphur Springs, but do not include reports for law enforcement agencies like Sulphur Springs Police Department which are required to track and submit their own UCR reports.

Overall, 190 crimes were recorded in the nine major crime reporting categories last year, only six more than in 2012, a  year in which the 14-year record low was set at 184 crimes. That’s less than half the record high of 412 crimes posted in 2004, when only 54.9 percent of cases were cleared.

Last year, officers cleared 149 cases from the books either by arrest or exception, just four fewer than in 2012 when the clearance rate was 83.2 percent. However, because there were more crimes recorded in 2013 than the year before, the clearance rate dipped to 78.4 percent. The best annual clearance rate the county has achieved since 2000 was 85.4 percent in 2007, a year in which 322 cases were recorded and 275 cleared.

In fact, just as the crime rate in Hopkins County has been below 350 cases in the nine major Uniform Crime Reporting categories since 2002, the clearance rate in Hopkins County has consistently been above 70 percent annually since 2006 as well. 

The lower crime rates and high clearance rates over the last last eight years are due largely to a number of factors.

The aggressive, quick attack patrol deputies take on each call and increased presence out in the county; patrol and investigators working together and with neighboring and other agencies; a personal diligence among community members in watching their personal accounts and property as well as keeping an eye out for their neighbors and community; even attentiveness of precinct workers to vehicles and things out of places that result in property recoveries; and “aggressive” prosecution of cases by the district attorney’s office. according to HCSO Chief investigator Lewis Tatum.

“The Criminal Investigations Department works really closely with patrol. If we haven’t been notified, as soon as an offense is out, they are contacting us. They work with us, gathering evidence, tracking down suspects, finding and recovering property. I think we are very lucky to have such dedicated officers who give 110 percent,” Tatum explained.

The investigator said that the cooperation among law enforcement agencies has been a valuable tool as well. He noted that often if HCSO gets certain types of cases, the officers automatically contact their counterparts in neighboring counties via the shared network of information in an effort to catch people committing offenses across multiple jurisdictions. The network has often resulted in location of stolen property and wanted individuals or persons sought in connection with crimes, sometimes even shutting down criminal rings.

“The key is getting on these cases quick,” Tatum said, adding that HCSO officers and investigators try to begin working cases as soon as they have information, realizing the first 48 hours are critical in many cases — including burglaries and thefts. 

In order to work cases, develop and follow leads, officers need information as soon after an offense has occurred as possible and as much information as possible.

That makes “nosy neighbors” invaluable assets.

“We love nosy neighbors. Be a nosy neighbor. If you see something suspicious, not just at your house, but your neighbors’, call it in right then. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way, but get all the information you can and call us if something’s suspicious in your neighborhood, if something just doesn’t seem quite right. If a strange vehicle backs up to a neighbor’s house and parks in the drive that shouldn’t, try to get  good descriptions of the people and vehicle and call it in to us. A good vehicle description and license plate number can be invaluable. If you see a strange vehicle sitting on the side of the road, or a slow-rolling vehicle through an area that is out of place, call it in and let us check it out,” Tatum said.

The bold, energetic prosecution by the district attorney’s office of defendants once cases have been turned over to them also sends a positive message, Tatum said.

“The district attorney’s office is so aggressive in prosecution of cases. It sends a signal to criminals that if you get caught doing criminal acts in Hopkins County, you will pay the price,” the investigator explained.

Although there were three more burglaries recorded in 2013 than in 2012, the concerted efforts of officials and the community have helped to reduce the numbers of burglaries reported in the county to less than 100 in each of the last seven years, Tatum noted. From 2000 to 2006, the fewest number of burglaries recorded in a single year in Hopkins County was 101 in 2003, a year in which only 20 burglaries were cleared. Last year, only 53 burglaries were reported, second only to 2012’s low of 50. The high was set at 122 in 2002, a year in which only 24 burglary cases were cleared. In both 2012 and 2013, 34 burglary cases were cleared.

Those same resources have also resulted in more cases being cleared and more property being recovered, the investigator noted. They helped shut down two different burglary rings operating across numerous counties. However the geographic span of the operations affected clearance rates.

“One of the problems we encountered was we couldn’t recover all the items. While the burglaries may have happened around the same time, we didn’t recover evidence tying them all together or to find the property, or had information but couldn’t get solid evidence. We weren’t able to close all those cases. Some items were taken too far and long gone before we could get there or get them all back,” Tatum said.

Larceny thefts — all thefts except those resulting from home or building burglaries or vehicle thefts, including items stolen from pocket-picking, shoplifting and all other means — were down in part to these efforts, Tatum said. Larceny thefts dropped from 67 in 2012 to 60 cases posted in 2013, although only 45 larceny theft cases were cleared in 2013 compared to the 54 cleared in 2012.

Tatum said this category could also include funds or items lost due to scams. Often, money scams require people to send money in order to secure a prize. Often the money is sent oversees, where officials have no or very little hope of ever recovering it for the victim. He reminds people that unless they applied to a sweepstakes or contest for a prize, don’t be fooled into thinking they’ve won one. They’re generally cons to get people to send money for “upfront taxes” or fees.

Unfortunately, a third category for stolen property, motor vehicle theft, more than doubled from five in 2012 to 12 in 2013. The high was set at 27 in 2008, a year in which only 19 vehicle thefts were cleared. But, utilizing the many tools, resources and sources available, 11 cases were cleared from the books in 2013, only one fewer that the number reported.

Arsons also doubled from two in 2012 to four in 2013. While the clearance rate for 2012 was 100 percent, it was only 75 percent in 2013, with only three arsons cleared.

“Arsons aren’t something we can predict or be proactive against like thefts. They are very hard to prove unless you are able to catch the suspect quickly after it occurs,” Tatum noted.

For the second year in a row, there were no criminal homicides nor robberies recorded in the county, the same as in 2008 and 2010. The worse year for homicides in Hopkins County was 2004; two were reported, but there were no robberies that year. There were no homicides in 2001, but there was one robbery; no homicides in 2002 nor in 2007. All the other years since 2000 posted one homicide annually. There were no robberies in 2000 nor 2006 either. The most robberies in a single year was set at three in 2002. The clearance rate in both categories continued to be 100 percent every year since 2000 except two — only two robberies were cleared in 2002 but three cases were recorded. However, things evened out in 2003 when only one robbery was reported but two were cleared. 

The number of forcible rapes was cut in half last year compared to one year before, dropping from three to six — that’s the fewest forcible rapes in five years. The 14-year high was set at 12 in 2006, a year in which only 11 forcible rape cases were cleared. The record low was set in 2002, when no forcible rapes were reported, but one was cleared. This year’s clearance rate was 100 percent; in fact, the clearance rate for forcible rapes has been 100 percent in 10 of the last 14 years. The clearance rate in 2007 was more than 200 percent, with only two rapes reported but five cleared from the books. In 2011, 10 rape cases were cleared, one fewer than the number recorded.

Four fewer aggravated assault cases were recorded in 2013 than the 19 cases posted in 2012. In each of the last two years, only one fewer case has been cleared than were reported, 14 this year and 18 last year. Over the last 14 years, 2010 had the best aggravated assault rate with only five reported; the clearance rate that year was 100 percent in 2010, a rate only match in 2009 when there were 14 cases. The worst of the last 14 years for agg assaults was 2004, when the high was set at 66 cases, although 63 agg assaults were cleared that year too.

The fifth category which involves personal injury to individuals, simple assaults, unfortunately rose in 2013, but so did the number of cases cleared. In 2013, 43 simple assaults were recorded, eight more than in 2012. The record high for the category was set at 114 cases in 2003, a year in which 115 cases were cleared. While four more simple assault cases were cleared in 2013 than the 35 cleared one year before, the clearance rate was better in 2012 than 2013 because last year more cases were recorded.

 

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