City's crime rate climbs
Burglaries help push total number of offenses to five-year high

Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

July 14, 2004 -- The good news is that there were fewer sexual assaults and motor vehicle thefts in the first half of 2004 than were recorded in the first six months of 2003.

Also, 2004 has seen no homicides this year compared to the two which occurred in June of 2003 and assaults other than simple assaults kept pace with the 2003 semiannual tally of 12.

The bad news is that crime overall increased from 173 offenses reported in the the first half of 2003 to 181 through June 30 of 2004. It's also the highest crime rate for the first six months the city has experienced in five years. The first six months of both 2000 and 2003 showed 173 crimes occurring in Sulphur Springs, while there were only 159 offenses in 2002 and 144 in 2001.

The most significant changes in the seven major offense categories - homicide, sexual assault, robbery, assault other than simple, theft of items valued at more than $200, and vehicle theft - in the first half of 2004, compared to the same time period in 2003, were in the motor vehicle theft and burglary categories.

The number of vehicles reported stolen was more than cut in half with only 11 vehicles stolen in the first portion of 2004 compared to the 25 stolen one year ago. That's the lowest semiannual vehicle theft tally over the past five years. 2001 tied 2003 for most number of vehicles stolen, with 2002 in second with 20 motor vehicle thefts and 2000 third with 16 vehicles stolen during the first six months.

Unfortunately, while car thefts were dropping, burglaries jumped significantly this year, with 70 occurring (47 in residential areas and 23 of buildings) in 2004 compared to only 49 in 2003. That's the most burglaries reported between Jan. 1 and June 30 in five years. There were 52 burglaries in the first six months of 2002, the second highest tally, with 49 burglaries in 2003, 44 in 2000 and 42 in 2001.

Another major offense category experiencing a slight rise this year over the 2003 semi-annual tally was theft. There were two more thefts of items valued at more than $200 than the 80 on record for the first six months of 2003. The current figures, however, still come in under the five-year high of 85 thefts recorded in the first half of 2000. But this year's numbers remain significantly higher than the 53 thefts occurring in the first half of 2001, and marginally more than the 76 in 2002.

In order to reduce the number of burglaries and thefts, two factors must be present, according to Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jim Bayuk: community and police collaboration, and individuals taking steps to protect their property.

"It takes both policing and community all working together," Bayuk said. "It's going to take individuals securing their property, and officers patrolling more vigilantly. It's a partnership of neighbors helping neighbors - people calling us if they see someone suspicious, and helping watch their neighbor's stuff and belongings. When I look in the offense bins in the morning and there's no reports, it means no one became a victim. That's a good day."

Although there were fewer crimes in two of the four offense categories involving crimes against people and one category showed no change, the number of robberies occurring in the first six months of the year rose with three occurring in 2004 compared to only one in 2003. No homicides occurred in Sulphur Springs the first half of 2004. As for sexual assaults, there was one fewer than the four recorded during the same time period one year ago.

Homicides have only occurred in two of the past five years, with one occurring in August of 2002, two in June of 2003 and one in December of 2003.

No one in Sulphur Springs became victim to a sexual assault in the first half of 2002, with only one person the victim of a sexual assault in 2000 and 2001, according to Sulphur Springs Police Department's semi-annual data reports from 2000-2004 of major crimes reported in the city.

The three robberies recorded this year may have exceeded the 2003 figure, but it is still significantly better than five-year high of seven in 2000. Both 2002 and 2003 each had only one robbery during the first six month of the year, while 2001 also had three robberies during the first six months.

Bayuk said another factor to keep in mind regarding this category is that robberies include any theft of personal affects resulting in personal injury, which can include offenses such as purse snatchings and wallet snatchings in which the victim receives a scrape, bruise or other minor injury.

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