Stats: 24 percent crime drop from end of 2013

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comApril 21, 2014 

Joe Paull jpaull@ledger-enquirer.com Columbus Police officers investigate the scene of a shooting Friday morning in the parking lot of Muscogee County DFCS.

New data released by Columbus Consolidated Government shows 24 percent fewer crimes were reported in 2014's first quarter when compared to 2013's fourth quarter — a change officials credit to programs reducing burglary, robbery and car thefts.

"This is the third-best quarter in 25 quarters," Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said. "When you compare it it to all quarters since 2008, it's the third lowest along with the first quarters of 2011 and 2012."

The data includes "Part One" crimes reported in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report — homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and car thefts. In 2013's fourth quarter, 3,737 crimes were reported in these areas, compared to 2,849 crimes in the 2014's first quarter.

Five of those seven categories (homicide, robbery, burglary, larceny and car thefts) make up the 24 percent reduction in crime seen between the two quarters. Rape saw a 50 percent increase, from eight reported incidents to 12. Aggravated assaults increased nine percent, from 101 reports to 110.

It is not unusual to see a large decrease in crimes reported when comparing the first quarter with the last quarter of a previous year. In 2013's first quarter, the crime rate dropped 12 percent when compared to 2012's last quarter (2,916 crimes compared to 3,320 crimes). In 2012's first quarter, 23 percent fewer crimes were reported (2,542 compared to 3,284).

Tomlinson said one reason to compare this year's first quarter to 2013's fourth quarter is because of 2013's crime spikes among burglaries, robberies and motor vehicle thefts.

According to the data, 306 fewer burglaries have been reported so far in 2014. Seventy fewer robberies have been reported.

"If we had had a more stable or normal fourth quarter, then we might not have drawn that comparison," Tomlinson said. "But since we had such an increase in burglaries and robberies, we wanted to show that steps had been taken to reduce those numbers."

Some of those steps include investment in intelligence-led policing, which helps Columbus Police officers predict future crime by pooling street and statistical data. The Burglary and Theft Division's work to apprehend burglary rings also played a part in reducing those numbers, Tomlinson said.

"I think getting them into the system, getting them in jail, breaking up these rings leads to these reductions," Tomlinson said. "Of course we had a real reduction in murder rates from this year to last."

In 2013's first quarter, nine homicides were reported, compared to five this year. That makes the lowest number of homicides reported in the first quarter since 2011, when seven were reported.

"My acceptable rate is zero, of course," Tomlinson said. "But that's a 44 percent decrease from previous year."

When compared with 2013's first quarter, 2014's crime rate dropped just 2 percent — a decrease Tomlinson said is still indicative of a general downward trend.

"The first quarter seems to indicate a continuation of the lower new plane that we're in," she said. "When we first had 2011's numbers, we said 'This looks good, can we hold this?' Even with the spike in 2013, those numbers are lower than many years past."

The spike in car thefts at the end of 2013 can be explained by a "surveillance issue." Though Tomlinson declined to say what that issue was, she said it has since been resolved.

"We have some technology that helps us survey where we were having issues with motor vehicle theft," she said. "We were having issues with that and it became very difficult to correct. I even had to get involved. It took us a lot to resolve it."

The number of rapes reported in 2014's first quarter is also the highest reported in a first quarter since 2009, when 13 were reported.

"We do tend to have one quarter that does tend to be up," Tomlinson said. "And our number of reported rapes averages between eight and 13 each quarter."

Tomlinson said she's hopeful the first quarter's reduction in reported crime indicates a trend for the coming year.

"I think the fact that you see such a dramatic drop-off indicates that these programs — particularly intelligence led-policing and programs like Cure Violence — are working," Tomlinson said.

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