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Crime rates trend down in city

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville’s crime rates in 2012 were among the lowest the city has had in the last 29 years, according to Police Chief Mike Rogers.

In public safety terms, 2012 was “a great year” for Martinsville, added Rogers, who has been chief since 1999 and tracked the statistics for nearly three decades.

“It’s great news for our area,” Rogers said of the city’s 2012 crime statistics. “In light of us having the highest unemployment in the state, one would expect our crime rates to be going through the roof, but they are not.”

The city had one reported murder in 2012, as it did in 1987, 1992, 2001, 2004 and 2008. In the last 29 years, the city has had five years with no murders: 1983, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009. The most murders — eight — occurred in 2000, Rogers said.

The city had eight reported rapes in 2012, which “is about average for us,” he said. Only one rape was reported each in 1983 and 1995. In the past 29 years, the largest number of rapes reported was 18 in 2001.

The city had seven reported robberies in 2012, the lowest number in 29 years (beginning in 1983) and down from 15 in 2011. The largest number of robberies was 52 in 1995, Rogers said.

The city had 21 reported aggravated assaults in 2012, which was the second lowest number in the 29 years. The lowest number (17) occurred in 2010, and 1991 had the highest (103), Rogers said.

The city had 70 reported burglaries in 2012, which tied 2011 for the second lowest number in 29 years. The lowest number (54) was in 2002, and 1988 had the highest number (273), Rogers said.

The city had 323 reported larcenies in 2012, the lowest number in 29 years. The highest number (1,056) was in 1983, Rogers said,

The city had 19 reported motor vehicle thefts in 2012, which was the third lowest number in 29 years. The highest number (96) was in 1997, Rogers said. The lowest number in the 29 years (11) was in 2001.

The city had five reported arsons in 2012, which was about average, Rogers said. The highest number was 11 in 2001. The lowest number (one each) was in 1983 and 2011, he said.

Rogers praised local law enforcement for the decline in rates.

“I’m very proud of the aggressive enforcement efforts of our officers, coupled with the prosecutorial efforts of our commonwealth’s attorney, Joan Ziglar, and her staff. Joan ... has taken a very strong position on not plea bargaining our drug distribution cases and a lot of our violent crime cases. That has sent a real strong message out to people who may think about violating the law,” the police chief said.

Another factor is that for the last 13 years, the police department has worked with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and has prosecuted hundreds of repeat offenders and those charged with large-scale drug distribution and other major crimes, Rogers said. “Joan (Ziglar) has been very supportive of efforts to have cases prosecuted where we get the greatest sentences.”

He also credited the city’s crime prevention efforts. Coretha Gravely, the community oriented policing officer, has helped set up more than 40 Neighborhood Watch groups in the city, Rogers said.

“... She is one of the best things that has ever happened to our department. She has really worked hard to get communities to help us by looking out for each other and reporting suspicious activity in the neighborhoods,” Rogers said.

“... Another big part of it has been our aggressive undercover drug investigations,” he said, adding that a lot of people involved in drug activities are involved in other criminal activities.

Rogers said he believes other factors that, over time, have contributed to the city’s decline in major crimes include a decline in the city’s population, tougher sentencing laws resulting in people serving more time, and longer-term unemployment benefits.

“The overwhelming majority of people receiving unemployment would rather have a job and are not going to commit crime no matter what,” he said, but he believes a small minority of people refrain from committing crime or refrain from committing even more crime because they receive unemployment.

The city’s neighborhood revitalization efforts involving the city’s director of community development, Wayne Knox, also have helped, Rogers said. That “has restored a lot of pride in neighborhoods,” Rogers said.

Rogers said he is proud of the efforts to reduce crime in the city. “I think we’ve made the city of Martinsville a safe place to live,” he said.

It wasn’t always that way, he said. For a number of years in the 1980s and early ’90s, Martinsville had the highest per-capita crime rate in Virginia, he said. “We’re way down on the list now,” he added.

Though Rogers is pleased with the city’s 2012 statistics and he’d “like to think we’ll get them even lower,” they probably will go back up, he said.

For the most part, historically, crime rates trend up and down in cycles, he added.

 

 
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