Police Chief Chris Perkins briefs council on 2012 crime statistics.
Shoplifting is up 27% but that is because businesses are reporting it more often said Police Chief Chris Perkins. The economy has forced them to look at their bottom line he said.
The derecho on June 29 was also a significant event for the police department. With the loss of electricity throughout the city burglaries took a tremendous amount of resources. “Detectives lost 605 investigation hours because they were redeployed to areas that had lost power,” said Perkins. Burglaries were up 3% in 2012.
This winter’s warm temperatures also had an affect on crime. The first quarter of 2012 with higher temperatures produced an increase in crime over previous years. The 2012 Presidential election had an affect too. President Obama and Vice President Biden’s visits pulled resources for candidate protection, crowd and traffic control. “I do not want us to be on the History Channel for anything other than this is a great place,” said Perkins. Candidate protection resulted in 654 lost hours.
Violent crime is up 20% with most assailants using firearms. Chief Perkins said “it’s not legal owners of weapons we’re finding issues [with] it’s those who are illegally possessing firearms that we are facing in our city when it comes to violent crime or other types crime.” Perkins’ approach is to be tougher on felons who are illegally possessing firearms. “I don’t think we need any other issues to address people who are legally possessing firearms.”
The perception that Roanoke’s parking garages are unsafe is just not true claimed Perkins. The larcenies occurring in the garages were from unlocked cars or a valuable placed in plain sight. “I have preached for two and one half years please lock your car … criminals are opportunists.”
Panhandling in the city is generally non-aggressive. The homeless are more often victims than suspects. Most of these homeless choose to be homeless he said. They are here because “we are a giving city,” said Perkins.
Roanoke Greenways are some of the safest in the country. Four hundred bike hours are spent patrolling the Greenway. “We have very few incidents on our Greenways,” he said.
Chief Perkins highlighted five criminals who between them had committed at least 100 burglaries in the city. Some of the five took advantage of the derecho storm while others burglarized throughout the year. When they were investigated they had a total of 46 felonies between them.
“We can’t arrest our way out of these problems,” said Perkins. “It’s all about giving opportunities to those who make mistakes … but after nine [felonies] per person they have run out of their cat lives.” These individuals added to the number of crimes that would have otherwise seen a tremendous reduction he said.
Councilman Sherman Lea and Chief Perkins talked about the need for reentry assistance to those who served prison time. “We need to look at how we are dealing with those individuals that are in prison.” Perkins said the judicial system needs to look at reincarceration issues, how to address first offenders and repeat offenders and how to provide rehabilitation.
“As a society we have to consider how we reenter the individuals who go to prison or to jail back into society.”
Perkins told council that 80-85% of crimes are drug driven – either by drug use or drug trafficking.
Hurt Park has been the focus of police attention and crime has decreased significantly. The use of the Data Driven Approach to Crime Traffic and Safety (DDACTS) has reduced crime when focused on specific areas. Southwest has seen a 75% reduction in crime.
Using Geo-policing (officers assigned to one of four city zones) the crime rate has decreased 24% since 2005. Violent crime has been reduced by 41%.
Perkins said they recruit police officer candidates aggressively. Female officers have increased by 50%. The goal is to have the police force reflect the makeup of Roanoke as a diverse city.