Crime rate down about 5 percent in county

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

July 23, 2008 - The total number of crimes reported to the Hopkins County Sheriff's Office has declined about 5 percent during the first half of 2008 compared to the same time period last year.

Overall, this year's numbers were the second-lowest recorded for crimes from January through June in eight years. The record low was set at 144 in 2006, and the high at 214 in 2001, according to data provided by Hopkins County Sheriff's Office.

And while crimes dropped from 160 to 151 this year, more cases were cleared from the books than in the first six months of any of the last eight years.

As of June 30, the sheriff's office had reported 143 cases cleared from the books by either arrest, conviction or other means. That's a 94.7 percent clearance rate, the best in eight years.

In 2007, the clearance rate was 88.75 percent, or 142 cases cleared and 160 reported.

Sheriff's records indicate that the clearance rate for the first six months of the year has continued to improve in six of the last seven years. 2005 was the exception. There were 10 fewer cases cleared in the first half of 2005 than the 116 cleared in 2004, but there were also 45 fewer crimes in 2005 than in 2004.

For the fourth straight year, there were no homicides recorded in Hopkins County during the first half of the year. The first six months of 2008 also mark the third consecutive year in which no robberies were reported. It is also the fifth year with no arsons reported in the first six months -- although officers were able earlier this year to clear one arson case still on the books from a prior reporting period, according to HCSO reports.

Crime declined in three categories -- simple assaults, burglaries and larcenies -- but rose in three categories --vehicle theft, aggravated assault and forcible rape.

There were 9 fewer simple assaults in the first half of 2008 than in 2007, tying 2008 and 2006 for the eight-year low of 26 simple assaults (those in which weapons were not used nor was serious bodily injury reported). The eight-year high was set at 58 simple assaults in 2001, with 2003 a close second with 57.

2008 also marks the third year that more simple assault cases were cleared from the books than were reported, which usually means cases from previous reporting periods are being cleared. This year, 31 simple assault cases have been cleared from the books, while 36 were cleared in 2007 and 27 in 2006. The seven-year record for simple assaults cases cleared was 57, set in 2002 when there were 54 cases, and repeated in 2003.

An eight-year record was set this year for least number of burglaries in the first six months of the year. The new record is 10 fewer burglaries this year than in 2007, when the old record low was set at 39. This marks the third year the rate has continued to decline, dropping from 49 to 43 in 2006 and from 43 to 39 in 2005. The eight-year high for burglaries was set at 68 in 2001.

This year, the clearance rate for burglaries through June 30 was about 79 percent. Last year, the burglary clearance rate was about 85 percent, and in 2006 the rate was as high as 97 percent -- the best yet for burglary clearance rates. The worst year was 2002, when just 55 burglary cases were recorded but only five were cleared.

Larceny also posted an eight-year record low of 44, down from the previous record of 48 set in 2003 for the first six months of the year. The record high for larceny for the last eight years was set at 70 in 2004, followed by 68 in 2001 and 61 in 2007. Forty larcenies had been cleared from the books by July 1 of this year, falling just below the record 49 larceny cases cleared in 2007 and 44 in 2006. It's also a far cry from the low of 13 larcenies cleared in 2002, when 57 cases were reported.

The first half of 2008 tied 2006 for the most number of forcible rapes recorded. In each of those two years, there were six rapes. Two years also tied for the record low, as there were no rapes recorded in Hopkins County in 2002 or 2005. This year's figure is significantly higher than in 2007, when only one rape was reported. As of the end of June, five rapes had been cleared, whereas only three were cleared in 2006.

Vehicle thefts also more than doubled in the first half of 2008 compared to the first six months of 2007, up to 16 from six. That's abnormally high when compared to the previous seven years, when the next-highest was seven in 2005 and again in 2006. The low for vehicle thefts was set in 2002, when no vehicles were stolen in the first six months of that year. Twelve cases have been cleared this year, five in 2007 and 2005, and six in 2006.

Aggravated assault was another crime category that increased significantly in 2008. There were 18 cases reported in the first six months of 2007, but 30 have already been logged this year. On the flip side, 30 cases were also cleared from the books this year. In both 2006 and 2007, there was one case fewer cleared from the books than new cases recorded.

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