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Home News-Telegram News County crime rate lowest in three years: Assaults and auto thefts on the decline

County crime rate lowest in three years: Assaults and auto thefts on the decline

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The crime rate in Hopkins County has hit a three-year low for the first half of the year, with only 150 crimes reported this year as increases in burglaries and thefts were offset by declines in aggravated assaults and stolen vehicles.

However, the rate is virtually unchanged from the same time period in 2008, when only one more crime was reported, according to Uniform Crime Reports data, which covers certain categories of information law enforcement agencies are required to collect and report to the FBI.

The crime rate for the first six months of the year has declined several times since 2005, when the number of offenses dropped from 204 to 159. The trend continued in 2006 with 144 crimes before moving upward in 2007 with 160 crimes.

The most offenses reported for the first six months of the year in the past nine years was 214 in 2001.

While the overall crime rates have been low, the clearance rates have been high, coming in above 60 percent for the past four years. The percentage of crimes cleared from the books either by arrest, conviction or exception in the county during the first half of 2009 fell dramatically from an almost unheard of 95 percent in 2008 to 71 percent so far this year. The 107 cases cleared so far in 2009 almost mirrors the first six months of 2006, when 159 offenses were reported and 106 were cleared.

Hopkins County Sheriff Butch Adams said that a number of factors contribute to the clearance rate in the county, with the economy being a influence.

In previous years, even when shifts ended, officers working cases have been able to continue following up on hot leads instead of going home. Consequently, when clearance rates were especially high, investigators racked up considerable amounts of overtime tracking leads and doing surveillance. Due to changes in the county’s overtime policy, however, that’s no longer an option.

“Officers are not as available to be as forceful or aggressive toward each crime due to overtime caps,” Sheriff Adams said. “We’re still dedicated to do what we can, but I can’t expect people to work for free. In this business, they may be in the middle of a case, and if they’re at the end of an eight to 10 hour shift, it’s hard to just stop doing it. But I don’t expect my people to work and not get paid for it.”

Adams said deputies often are also pulled off the streets to transport inmates to and from court or to medical appointments. They sometimes take people who have been taken into custody on emergency protective orders to facilities in locations as far away as San Antonio. Some being held in jail facilities in other cities and states have to be picked up and are brought back to Hopkins County. Designated part-time staff are used for long-distance transports when available, but that’s not always an option, so deputies sometimes have to fly out or drive cross-country.

When possible the county uses a transport service to get inmates to far-off places, but that’s not always an option, either. For shorter distances in neighboring counties and cities, on-duty deputies are utilized, again taking them off patrol duty for transport service.

Because of overcrowding at the jail, officers are also regularly having to transport inmates to and from the county jails in Franklin and Rains counties, where they’re having to be housed due to an order issued by the state agency overseeing jail standards.

Of course, officers also have to take off from work for health issues. One officer is serving in the armed forces in Iraq. Other patrol officers have been scheduled to cover those slots when possible, but transport and overtime restrictions make it difficult, Adams noted.

The sheriff noted that while the UCR numbers cover nine crime categories, it’s by no means gives a complete picture of the full scope of offenses handled by the sheriff’s office.

The UCR reports cover homicides, forcible rapes, robberies, simple assaults, aggravated assaults, burglaries, larceny theft, vehicle thefts and arsons.

However, it does not include drug offenses, nor does it include sex crimes such as indecency with a child which fall under the “exception” category and aren’t on the main report page.

“They’re good numbers, but not comprehensive,” Adams noted.

So what do the UCR numbers show?

As has been the case for the last six years, no arson offenses were recorded in the county in the first half of the year.

But for the first time in five years, there was a homicide recorded in the county during the first half of the year. That case was cleared by exception. A man was shot by his former wife, who fled and was shot by law enforcement officers in Wood County, Adams noted.

There was also a robbery reported in the first half of 2009, the first time in four years. In fact, the only years in which robberies were reported during the same time frame during the last nine years were 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2009, and only one in each of those. Only 2003’s clearance rate outpaced its robbery offenses; two cases were cleared.

Three other categories — forcible rape, aggravated assault and vehicle thefts — were down significantly from 2008 to 2009.

There were only three forcible rapes reported in the first six months of 2009; the figure was double that for the first half of 2008. Comparatively, two rape cases were cleared in 2009 and five in 2008. The record low in that category was set in 2002 and repeated in 2005; there were no rapes those years. The high was set at six in 2006 when only three cases were cleared, and repeated two years later.

The nine aggravated assaults this year are the second-lowest in nine years and only three more than the record low of six set in 2006, a year in which nine cases were cleared. Eight cases had been cleared at the end of June this summer.

The number of aggravated assaults so far this year has been significantly lower than in 2008, when a record 30 were recorded. Thirty, however, were also cleared.

The first half of 2009 had four vehicle thefts, a dozen fewer than the 16 cases from January through June of 2008. Also, five auto thefts have been cleared — one more than was reported this year.

The record low was set in 2002, which had no cases reported, followed in 2003 by only one theft case.

There were also more simple assaults, burglaries and larceny thefts in the first part of 2009 than in 2008.

Simple assaults increased by 11 offenses to 37, the same as the number of cases cleared. An increase isn’t surprising, however, considering that 2008 tied 2006 for the lowest number of simple assaults recorded at 26. The nine-year record high for simple assaults was set at 58 in 2008.

Burglaries rose to 39 in 2009, up by 10 cases from the nine-year low of 29 burglaries in 2008. Of the 39 break-ins, 21 have been cleared, just two less than the 23 cleared last year. 2009 also ties 2007 as the second-lowest number of burglaries recorded from January through June in the last nine years. The nine-year high was set at 68 burglaries in 2001.

Larceny thefts was up from 44 to 56 this year, with 32 cases cleared — eight fewer than in 2008 when the record low was set. The high was set at 70 in 2004, when only 21 larceny cases were cleared.

 

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