City records lowest crime totals in years
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Jan. 8, 2006 -- Crime in Sulphur Springs reached a seven-year low in 2005, with only 277 crimes reported overall, a significant drop from the 371 offenses, which was a five-year high.

"Overall, crime in the major offense categories is down and is looking a lot better," Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jim Bayuk said Friday morning, referring to the seven  major crime categories -- homicide, sexual assault, robbery, assault other than simple, residential and building burglaries, theft over $200 and motor vehicle thefts -- as reported on Uniform Crime Reports in 2005. "I'm pretty pleased with it."

Burglaries and theft of items valued at more than $200 were the two categories to show the most significant change in 2005. Police worked 25 fewer burglaries and 64 fewer thefts than in the previous year, which concluded with 118 burglaries and 178 thefts. 

In 2004, there were 76 residential burglaries and 42 building burglaries, whereas last year there were only 55 residential and 38 building burglaries.

Theft of property valued at more than $200 dropped from 178 in 2004 to 115 in 2005, and there were also five fewer vehicles stolen last year than the 33 taken in 2004.

Bayuk attributes the drop in both categories to a combination of diligence in securing personal property and police presence in the community.

"I hope it is a combination of police presence and people guarding their homes and businesses," he said. "People appeared to be paying more attention to their surroundings. Thefts over $200 dropped by 63. Maybe people were keeping their hands to themselves and not taking more expensive items belonging to someone else. 

"It's frustrating when you have people in town who work hard for what they have to try to provide for their families and then you have an element out there trying to steal those things. It's frustrating," he said.

Bayuk also noted that although he did not have an exact figure, he did know that a significant number of the vehicles stolen were the result of people loaning them to individuals they knew who did not return the vehicles.

"The majority of people loaned their cars to friends or someone like that and the other person did not return them, resulting in unauthorized use of motor vehicle reports," Bayuk said.

The police chief also noted residents' attention to their surroundings and taking precautions as contributing to the drop in auto thefts to 28 in 2005. He noted locking of car doors, not leaving articles in plain view as temptations for would-be burglars, and taking time to remove keys from vehicles as some of those precautions which aided in the drop in auto thefts.

Crime Stoppers was also credited as a significant factor in cases being solved and reported.

"I'd like to encourage people to use the Crime Stoppers hotline. It's an easy way to make some money," Bayuk said. "The Crime Stoppers Board does [provide] a definite service to the community and they are very excited to be able to give money for tips which help solve crimes or result in the return of property. The board meets once a month and looks forward to giving money for information. Without information, crimes would not get solved."

The number of sexual assault cases in the city also dropped from seven in 2004 to two last year.

There were only half as many robberies in 2005 as the six reported in 2004.

The only two categories which experienced gains in 2005 were homicides and assault other than simple.

A murder-suicide involving a husband and wife which occurred in mid-November on Lee Street was the only homicide reported in 2005. No murders were recorded in 2004.

Bayuk also noted that while there were 35 assaults other than simple, six more than in 2004, the majority of the assaults recorded were from domestic violence, often involving repeat offenders.

"We work a lot of assault involving domestic violence. We refer them to Family Haven, for protective orders and other resources. The majority of domestic violence victims come in later and sign documents of non-prosecution," the police chief said.

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