The following is from the abilene Reporter News.
Rape and drug abuse each increased more than 30 percent in Abilene in 2009, while the overall crime rate was up 5.4 percent.
The Abilene Police Department released crime statistics this week that are submitted annually through the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
After overall crime and violent offenses decreased between 2007 and 2008 — 3 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively — the numbers released this week for 2009 show increases in both areas.
Abilene police Sgt. Keith Shackleford said the 2009 numbers reflect favorably on Abilene, even if crime rates for some offenses increased.
“What we saw in the crime statistics for 2009 is that Abilene is still a safe place to live,” Shackleford said. “... I can’t tell you violent crime doesn’t happen in Abilene. I can tell you violent crime is not the norm for our city; it is the exception, even with the increase.”
Some of the notable aspects of the report include:
n Violent crime was up 3.3 percent, while property crime increased 7.2 percent.
n Rape increased by about 31 percent, but other sex crimes (indecent exposure, public lewdness, etc.) decreased by about 39 percent.
n The number of murders remained flat compared with 2008, at seven each year.
n Driving while intoxicated and public intoxication increased 6 percent and 10 percent, respectively, while drug abuse increased about 33 percent.
Shackleford said 10 of the 14 traffic fatalities last year involved alcohol.
Abilene continues to compare favorably with other cities its size in the state, Shackleford said, and the number of crimes that occur here per capita should be taken into consideration.
As an example, he points to the 400 aggravated assaults reported in 2009, which is 35 more than were reported in 2008.
“The 9.6 percent increase seems like a significant amount,” Shackleford said. “However, when we consider there are 116,000 residents in Abilene, we view the reported number with a different perspective.”
It’s difficult to pinpoint a reason for the increase in rapes in 2009, Shackleford said, but 60 percent of the victims knew their attackers.
The increase in drug abuse reported in 2009 can be directly linked to increased and focused enforcement, Shackleford said. The APD division that investigates drug crimes spent a big part of 2007 cracking down on eight-liner gambling operations, and in 2008, the department lost several senior agents to retirement.
Last year, APD and other law enforcement agencies in the area increased their cooperation in narcotics investigations, and a drug dog joined the force. Also, street crimes were removed from the division’s tasks, allowing it to focus solely on drug and vice investigations, Shackleford said.
Cort Tanner, a professor of criminal justice at Cisco College, said drug crimes often lead to an increase in property crime because criminals typically have to steal to get money to support their habits.
On the whole, crime in the United States has been decreasing over the past several years, Tanner said. While the 5.4 percent increase in overall crime in Abilene is significant, he said it probably isn’t too far out of balance with the rest of the nation.
Tanner said the increase in property crimes in 2009 might have been the result of the sagging economy, which left some people out of work and without money.
The police department is developing new strategies and continuing existing programs to help officers fight crime in 2010, but Shackleford said some of the responsibility for preventing crime falls on the community.
“Crimes go up or down, in many cases, irrespective of what the police do or don’t do,” he said.
Shackleford touted neighborhood watches as an inexpensive but effective way to fight crime, and he said residents should take opportunity away from criminals.
“Locking doors, securing valuables, having good lighting on your property, taking your keys with you when you leave your vehicle are all areas each of us could improve on and help reduce these crimes,” Shackleford said.