Report: Crime rising

By Darrell Todd Maurina

While national and regional statistics show an across-the-board drop in violent crime reported to the FBI for each of the last four years, crime statistics reported by the Clovis Police Department show an increase over the same period.
FBI statistics report murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults as subcategories of violent crime. According to statistics released in January by Clovis police, Clovis had 310 violent crimes in 2003, up 27.5 percent from the 243 violent crimes reported in 2002. That year showed a 23.9 percent increase from the 2001 number of 196 violent crimes.
However, the 2001 number represented a 10.1 percent drop from 2000’s total of 218 violent crimes.
Clovis Police Capt. Dan Blair cautioned that annual statistics in a small city need to be read with care but the trend is cause for concern.
“I was a burglary detective for years, and these things go in cycles,” Blair said. “You see the burglaries spike for a while, then you catch the people doing them and the numbers fall off for a while until some more people come around.”
The largest contributor to the violent crime index is the category of aggravated assaults, which increased 37.2 percent from 172 in 2002 to 236 last year. Robberies and murders showed a slight decline — three murders last year compared to four in 2002 and three in 2001, and 38 robberies last year compared to 40 in 2002 and 23 in 2001. However, rapes increased from 27 in 2002 and 2001 to 33 last year.
While higher crime statistics sometimes reflect more aggressive law enforcement or an increased police presence on the streets, Sgt. Chris Kinley, who compiled the statistical report, said that isn’t what caused the increase. The department currently has nine unfilled slots out of about 60 positions authorized.
“We are doing more with less,” Kinley said. “We are using canine units on calls for service and even to take regular calls. It used to be traffic unit guys largely worked traffic calls, but now we have to use them for everything.”
While agreeing that the steady increase in violent crimes is a serious problem, Blair and Kinley said the category of driving while intoxicated — which showed a slight decrease from 245 DWI arrests in 2002 to 243 last year, but a marked increase from 178 in 2000 and 188 in 2001 — is one of the most worrisome numbers on the police report.
“DWIs are one thing we like to look at because of the cost in lives,” Blair said. “In 2002 we had a big year for DWIs and we had that again this year. That alone should grab our attention.”
While some statistics show a large increase or decline, Blair said evaluating them is complicated. Simple assaults were down 20 percent — 602 in last year compared to 754 in 2002 — but Blair noted the simple assault category includes only cases where no physical contact was made with the victim, only a threat to do harm. Blair said he didn’t have a ready explanation for categories like weapons law violations, which increased from 53 in 2002 to 102 last year, or runaways, which dropped each of the last four years from 183 in 2000 to 84 last year.
“You’ve got to look at each number for what it is,” Blair said. “Crime is an unpredictable act most of the time.”