Doug E. Freeman
The nation’s property crime rate are on the rise in non-metropolitan counties, according to FBI reports. Similar records provided by local law enforcement agencies suggest that Delaware County is no exception.
A recent Federal Bureau of Investigation report finds that property crime increased 2.0 percent in “non-metropolitan” counties between 2009 and 2010. In contrast, larger cities experienced a 1.9-percent decrease.
The report shows that Delaware County’s violent crimes have decreased from 2009 to 2010. Violent crimes include murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office experienced the greatest decrease; 58.1 percent, with 18 violent crimes reported in 2010 compared to 43 in 2009. The most frequent violent crime in 2009 was forcible rape; in 2010, the majority of reports involved aggravated assaults.
Delaware City police experienced a 38.6-percent decrease in violent crimes, with 51 reports in 2010 compared to 83 in 2009. Aggravated assaults were the most frequent violent crimes both years.
While local police authorities considered Delaware County’s increase to be relatively low, they speculate that the numbers correlate with an increase in drug abuse within the county.
“We’re seeing a little more theft issues. We can typically tie that back to an emerging drug problem,” said Sunbury Police Chief Patrick Bennett.
“More often than not, it’s a heroine addict who’s on their last leg,” Bennett continued. “They have no job, they have no money and they have an addiction that they need to support.”
Powell and Delaware police chiefs hold the same theory.
“People need capital to support their drug habit, and they’re stealing it from you,” said Delaware Police Capt. Bruce Pijanowski.
From 2009 to 2010, four of the five Delaware County jurisdictions showed an increase in the number of property crimes reported. Property crimes include burglaries, motor vehicle theft, and larceny-theft, the latter of which was by far the most frequent property crime across Delaware Country.
For example, Delaware City reported 256 property crimes in 2010, a 2.8-percent increase from 2009.
Genoa Township experienced a similar percentage increase, the township’s 174 property crimes in 2010 represent a 2.4-percent increase from 2009.
Powell and Sunbury experienced a similar percentage increase, yet their incident numbers were lower. Both recorded about 80 property-crime related investigations in 2009 and about 100 in 2010.
The one jurisdiction that saw a decline was the Delaware County Sheriff’s office. It showed a 33-percent decrease from the 1,911 property crimes recorded in 2009 to the 1,282 reported in 2010.
“We have more deputies on the road today, and it’s evident they are deterring criminals,” Delaware County Sheriff Walter L. Davis said.
“The continued frequency of theft reports can be directly attributed to the opiate problem facing Central Ohio,” Davis said. “The Drug Task Force has seized about 12 pounds so far this year — 30 times more than in 2009.”
Powell Police Chief Gary Vest theorized that property crimes happen in places that are generally considered safe, by individuals acting repetitively until he or she is caught.
“It’s like fishing. If you catch a fish in one lake, you’re going to keep going back to that lake,” Vest said. “If (thieves) are successful at it, they keep coming back.”
Bennett made a similar observation in Sunbury.
“When we had a rash of burglaries, it was one guy, every other night, breaking into a business. He was taking change out of the drawer,” Bennett said.
Vest advised that residents be generally aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activity. He cited one example of a resident who did not think to call the police even after seeing a masked intruder hiding in the bushes.
“In our minds, we’re willing to accept that maybe it’s a game, maybe he’s at the wrong house,” Vest said.
He also emphasized the importance of maintaining a strong defense, such as locking ones doors.
“It is easier for law enforcement to do their jobs if the residents work hard at safe guarding their property — and to go ahead and make the call if they’re in doubt,” Vest said.
Despite the slight uptick in property crimes, most considered Delaware County to be relatively secure.
“In terms of cities that are similar to us, I don’t think we have any real issues here,” said Pijanowski. “We generally have a safe environment.”
In Powell, the number of violent crimes remained zero for years 2009 and 2010.
Vest attributed this to, among other factors, the design of the city’s homes and streets.
For example, he said that an unrecognized parked car is more likely to stand out in residential communities more so than it would in an apartment complex parking lot.
Vest said that being able to identify “what is unusual or different about your community” is a good crime prevention strategy.
“We don’t want to bother legit people doing legit things, but we also want people to notify us when they’re doing something unusual,” Vest said.
The sheriff suggested that the crime rate numbers are small throughout Delaware County, considering the area’s population growth.
“Since 2005, Delaware County’s population has increased tremendously, yet the number of violent crimes reported to our office has gone down,” Davis said.
Although outside the scope of the FBI analysis, vehicle crashes were cited as a growing trend local police have observed.
“The crashes tend to impact us economically more than what people realize,” said Pijanowski. He said between car insurance and possible medical bills, such incidences can potentially set families’ finances back further than criminal activity.
These “quality of life issues” tend to be the focus of local police authorities, Pijanowski said.
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