Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Violent Crime Down, Arson Up, Crime Driven by Drug Trade – Presentation

Deputy Chief Chris Perkins

Deputy Chief Chris Perkins

In 2004 geographical policing evolved as a means of combating crime in Roanoke City. The four Zones fall along the lines of Northwest, Southeast, Southwest and Garden City/South. Each zone is assigned to a Lieutenant and Community Resource Officers who regularly attend Neighborhood meetings. This resulted in a “single source of responsibility for that part of the city,” said Deputy Chief Chris Perkins. From that point on crime began to decline. CLICK HERE FOR DEPUTY CHIEF CHRIS PERKINS PRESENTATION. Presentation given to RNA (Roanoke Neighborhood Advocates) in June.

Perkins said there are 213 uniformed and plain clothes officers that work the streets. Another part of a 2007 strategy is Geotemporal policing – “being at the right place at the right time,” said Perkins. With crime analysis and statistics “you must take into account the socioeconomic factors that come into [the statistics].” Underlying factors are deceiving when looking at only the numbers. An example Perkins gave was an alcohol retailer moving to an area that results in a boost in public intoxication complaints and assault incidents. Though it may be just that one hotspot it effects the crime rate for the entire community.  Officers are deployed into these hotspots as best they can with a limited number of street officers.

Reporting incidents to 911 is essential to geotemporal policing. “It may be just a call of a suspicious person or vehicle … we use these calls as a predictor of where we need to start placing our people,” said Perkins. He stressed the importance of strong neighborhoods helping him have his people at “the right place at the right time.”

Year to Date Comparison

Year to Date Comparison

Overall reportable crime is down 16% as of June 1, 2009 (see slide).

The economy so far has had little effect on crime in the city. However, arson is up 18% as a result of an increase in insurance fraud. With declining home prices and loss of employment some homeowners owe more then their house is worth. The result can be a house set on fire to collect insurance. The economy has only effected larceny and burglary slightly.

“Crime in the city is driven by the drug trade … we have a tremendous underground drug trade in the city,” said Perkins. Functional drug addicts who have lost their jobs have to find money for their drug habit somewhere else. The result may be an increase in motor vehicle thefts. People are pawning items up to 12 times within a month, which usually leads to a perpetrator of a crime or drug addiction.

Heroin is at an all-time high in the United States and in Roanoke. Primarily produced in two parts of the world – Bolivia, Columbia, and Venezuela for the coca plant; Afghanistan, Pakistan, and East Asia contain most of the poppy fields.

In 2005 Roanoke improved accuracy for reporting crime by switching to the IBR system (Incident Based Reporting). A revolving door in the criminal justice system is a source of constant frustration for law enforcement lamented Perkins.

“Serial burglaries are a problem,” said Perkins. As an example he recalled 3 people who accounted for 60 burglaries.

Commercial robberies are down significantly with concentration of officers in areas like Williamson, Plantation, Colonial, and Franklin Roads. Memorial Avenue had been a pocket for robberies. The surrounding streets have a high level of drug traffic. Officers began to visit these pockets on a regular basis at alternating times of the day which successfully reduced crime on Memorial Avenue.

Shoplifting arrests have risen with increased prosecution by merchants. In the past merchants had a tendency to let them go. The two shoplifting hotspots are Crossroads Mall and Valley View Mall. Perkins said the one time a shoplifter is caught they have on average shoplifted 150 times prior and not been caught. Perkins told merchants, “if you are not prosecuting they know this.” Shoplifter pictures are on police websites and posted at merchant counters.

Car break-ins in downtown are numerous in parking garages – 22 break-ins in 7 days. Articles left in plane view are targets. Educating the public is how Perkins plans to address this – clearly don’t leave anything of value in your unattended vehicle.

Violent crime year-to-date is down 36%. Perkins is cautiously optimistic saying, “with summertime coming we have a lot more people out; tempers will flare; alcohol will be consumed; people will gather. That equals a real possibility of increased violent crime. Wintertime when criminals can cover themselves is a time for break-ins and robberies.

Not all is rosy though – drug traffic is increasing. Danville and the Southside area had an influx of Mexican drug cartels. The ATF and DEA were attacking the problem in Greensboro and Charlotte, NC areas. This pushed them towards Roanoke.

In Zone 3 Hurt Park crime had been reduced significantly. Lax screening of people moving back into Hurt Park has led to crime returning. Lincoln Terrace has been a model project and there are very few problems there. The problem now is that the criminals have relocated to Afton Gardens and Hunt Manor. Hunt and Afton have rival gang groups.

“We are trying to keep the lid on the [gang] problem,” said Perkins. Acknowledgement and empowerment will only lead to “more gang violence.” Perkins said, “we do have influences from national gangs … the wannabe people want recognition.” There is a very troublesome gang problem in Stradford Park. “There are two rival groups there that are creating a lot of problems for us,” said Perkins. A full-time investigator and two squads of officers are working to address these wannabe gangs.

Until they are proven wrong the city’s position is to not acknowledge or empower the gangs.

Perkins stressed how well the Curfew Center is working for the 16 and under youth. A social worker at the center helps deter youth influenced when hanging out with older groups with gang associations. Perkins praised Rita Bishop, RCPS administrator for running a tight ship. Community resource officers talk to civics classes emphasizing that gang membership is “not cool.”

Perkins said, “you’ve got to realize that Roanoke is a major urban area for Southwest and Central Virginia.” Roanoke’s gang investigator is part of VGIA (Virginia Gang Investigator Association). Being a part of VGIA gives them tons of information – Blacksburg is seeing people from Roanoke – Radford is seeing our people – so when these national people come to the area then Roanoke City knows about it. National gangs like MS13 have been kept away. There are 14 Special Marshals in the area to help city police identify gang members and extradite them back to where they came from, said Perkins.

There are many service calls to downtown but are usually only minor  and are mostly annoyances resulting in no arrest.

A Crime analyst pinpoints the hotspots for concentrated patrol but now the peripheral areas are drawing attention. Criminals from outside the city hit the peripheral areas avoiding the hotspots where police presence is high. For example, there were a string of burglaries in Greater Deyerle Court recently. An area not prone to criminal activity.

A $2 million grant has been designated to create and collect data for sharing crime and gang information throughout the surrounding cities, towns, and counties. This database will alleviate the manual efforts of tracking criminals across jurisdictions.

On the bright side areas like Day and Marshall Avenue have improved significantly with revitalization efforts. 

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community, Crime

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Comments (2)

Margaretta Scherr

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Fermin Lucky

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