City's overall crime rate falls, but four major violent offense categories showed increases

Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

January 16, 2004 -- The good news is that the overall crime rate in Sulphur Springs declined in 2003, with 38 fewer crimes overall committed last year in the seven major offense categories than in 2002. In fact, the overall number of crimes reported in 2003 was the lowest number recorded in the past five years.

The seven major Uniform Crime Report offense categories - homicide, sexual assault, robbery, assault other than simple, burglary, theft of items valued at more than $200 and motor vehicle theft - totaled only 319 crimes this year, while there were 357 recorded in 2002, 348 in 2001, 344 in 2000 and 375 in 1999. The highest rate on record in recent years came in 1995 when a whopping 601 crimes were recorded.

The 2003 burglary tally was the largest categoric drop, after showing the most significant increase in five years in 2002. Only 86 burglaries occurred this year, compared to 2002 when burglaries increased to 118, up 20 from 2001. Burglaries in 2000 were only marginally higher than in 2003, but still 19 fewer than in 1999.

Fewer large item thefts were recorded in 2003, with only 157 compared to the 167 thefts of items valued at more than $200 recorded one year before.

The bad news is that crimes in the other four major offense categories rose last year. Three of the four - homicides, sexual assaults and robbery - involved violent crimes against people. In the fourth category, only one more vehicle was reported stolen in 2003 than the 36 taken the year before, considerably fewer than the 50 cars stolen in 2001, the 40 taken in 2000 and the 43 in 1999.

Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jim Bayuk said a few ways motorists can help better protect their vehicles from thieves include drivers being aware of their surroundings and the people in there, locking their vehicles, not leaving keys in vehicles and not leaving unattended vehicles running.

With the most significant statistical drop occurring in the burglary category, Chief Bayuk said Wednesday afternoon that he believes the drop in the number of burglaries from 118 in 2002 to 86 last year was due largely to increased police presence in the community.

"I think more officer visibility in neighborhoods and business districts had helped cut down on burglaries," Bayuk said. "When you take into consideration the combination of patrol, calls for service, accidents and a variety of other types of calls, I think our officers are doing a pretty good job with the resources we have at the time."

Officers too have been more successful in recovering quite a bit of property and clearing more burglary and theft cases, Bayuk added.

He said a common thread in the increase in homicides from one to three, sexual assaults from two to eight and of robberies from four to five is domestic issues.

At this point, the three homicides in Sulphur Springs appear to have all been the result of murder-suicides, while at least seven of the eight sexual assault victims knew their attackers and some of the robberies were committed by individuals knowledgeable about their victims' habits, according to Bayuk.

Robberies, by definition, involve theft and any kind of injury. Although at least one case of robbery reported this year resulted in severe injury, most involved minor injuries which caused more discomfort than need for extensive medical treatment .

Also to be noted is the fact that only one of the five robberies reported had not been cleared by the end of 2003. The other cases resulted in charges being brought against the assailants, according to Bayuk.

The number of robberies in 2003 matched that recorded just two years before, and showed the rate to be only half that recorded in 1999. Last year's robbery total also came in three fewer than in 2000.

Assaults other than simple, conversely, have decreased with only 23 reported last year compared to 29 in 2002. This reflects a continuing downward trend over the last five years. There were 56 assaults recorded in 1999, 44 in 2000 and 40 in 2001.

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