Drug probe, other factors prompt increased crime rate

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    An undercover drug probe, a focus on crimes against women and children and a decrease in population prompted the increase in local crimes reported in 2016.

    The county’s incident rate per 100,000 was 2,716.33 or 2.716 percent in 2016, according to the recently released 2016 ’Crime in Virginia,’ an annual report, compiled by the Virginia State Police.

    The rate was 2373.98, or 2.373 percent, in 2015.

    Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith said the increase was due to a two-year undercover drug investigation that culminated in March, 2016 with 51 people named in 147 indictments.

    Also, Smith said two-full time officers are assigned to investigate crimes against women and children, as well as an undercover drug investigation, as illustrated by the marked increase in ‘other forcible sex offenses’ portion of the report. Smith said the investigators are paid with grant and state funds.

    The county also experienced a decrease in population, and while many of those charged live outside the locality and even out of state, crime rates are calculated as the number of incidents per 100,000 by first dividing the locality’s population by 100,000 and then dividing that figure by the number of offenses.

    The county’s population declined, from 18,450 in 2015 to 18,039 in 2016. Additionally, the number of ‘other forcible sex offenses’ more than doubled – from the eight reported in 2015 to 19 incidents in 2016. The number of drug/narcotics reports also increased, from 17 in 2015 to 57 in 2016, data showed.

    One murder/manslaughter; four forcible rape incidents; six robbery incidents; 17 aggravated assault incidents; 99 simple assault/intimidation incidents and two arson reports also were among the 490 incidents reported in 2016.

    Also, there were 33 burglary incidents, 181 larceny, 17 motor vehicle thefts, 14 counterfeiting/forgery incidents, 24 fraud incidents, two embezzlement incidents, five pornography related incidents and 20 weapons law violations, data showed.

    In 2015, there were a total of 438 incidents, the report showed. In addition to the ‘other sexual offenses,’ incidents reported included one murder/manslaughter; six forcible rapes; three robbery incidents; 21 incidents of aggravated assault; and 97 incidents of simple assault/intimidation, according to the data.

    Also reported in 2015 were 39 burglary incidents, 163 larceny, 9 motor vehicle theft, six counterfeit/forgery, 29 fraud, three embezzlement, two stolen property, 63 destroy/damage/vandalize property, four pornography and 17 weapon law violations, data shows.

    While the crime rate increased from 2015 to 2016, Smith said overall, rates have decreased since 2000.

    The 2014 rate per 100,000 was 2906.29 or 2.906 percent, with a total of 544 incidents, including two murder/manslaughter; three kidnapping; three forcible rapes; 10 other forcible sex offenses; one robbery; 11 aggravated assault cases; 137 simple assault/intimidation and one case of extortion/blackmail, data showed. The population was 18,718.

    Data from 2013 shows a population of 18,737 and a total of 578 incidents. In 2012, the population was 18,691, with a total of 661 incidents.

    The data included in the state police report is calculated from the Incident Based Reporting (IBR) system, which is used by law enforcement agencies in Virginia.  The report includes two categories of offenses: Group A, which includes serious incidents and violent crimes such as murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, property crimes and drug offenses; and Group B, which is reserved for less serious offenses like trespassing, disorderly conduct, bad checks and liquor law violations where an arrest occurred.

    Highlights of statewide averages included a more than a 10 percent increase in violent crime (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) compared to 2015.

    Other statewide data includes:

    Increases in drug arrests compared to the previous reporting period. Marijuana was associated with more drug arrests than any other drug, increasing by 10.6 percent compared to the previous reporting period, while arrests for heroin, “crack” cocaine and powder cocaine showed an even greater percentage increase compared to the previous reporting period (17.1 percent, 11.1 percent, 19.4 percent, respectively).

    There also was a 25.7 percent increase in the number of reported homicides, according to the report, which noted that victims and offenders tended to be relatively young: 47.5 percent of homicide victims and 63.5 percent of offenders were less than 30 years old. Also, both victims and offenders were most likely to be male.

    Property crimes — like burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft, overall were unchanged from the previous year.

    Of the weapons reported in violent crimes, firearms were used in 75.6 percent of homicides and 57.6 percent of robberies. Firearms were used to a lesser extent in the offenses of aggravated assault (27.8%) and forcible rape (2.2 percent).

    There were 137 hate crimes reported in 2016, which represented an 11.6 percent decrease compared to 2015. More than half were racially or ethnically motivated. Bias toward sexual orientation and religion were next highest, at 19.7 percent and 16.8 percent, respectively. The remaining 5.8 percent reported was attributed to a bias against a victim’s physical or mental disability, the report showed.