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2013-03-06 / Front Page

Overall, serious crime rate down

But arsons, burglaries, homicides up
By Donna C. Gregory
CONTRIBUTING WRITER


From inside of his cruiser, John Kimenhour, a county police officer, demonstrates the MDT (mobile data terminal), which provides information about dispatch calls, GPS mapping, and BOL (Be On Lookout) alerts. 
Page Dowdy/Chesterfield Observer From inside of his cruiser, John Kimenhour, a county police officer, demonstrates the MDT (mobile data terminal), which provides information about dispatch calls, GPS mapping, and BOL (Be On Lookout) alerts. Page Dowdy/Chesterfield Observer Serious crime in the county is down for the fifth year in a row, according to statistics from the Chesterfield Police Department.

The department annually reports the number of incidents for 23 crime categories to the Virginia State Police (see chart on page 10). Last year’s data shows there were 16,633 criminal incidents, compared to 16,997 in 2011.

(Incidents refers to a single event, and does not correlate with the number of victims or arrests.)

Robberies and vandalisms decreased for the fifth year in a row, with larcenies seeing a three-year decline. Assaults and weapons law violations also saw notable drops.

But it wasn’t all good news. Homicides, drug violations, arsons and burglaries were among 11 categories that increased during 2012.

The five-year overall decline in crime is partially credited to the department’s use of an intelligence-based policing model – also known as geographic policing.

Each week, analysts study the previous week’s criminal incidents, identifying trends within the data. For example, the data may reveal a series of burglaries in a particular neighborhood. That information is then distributed to officers, who beef up patrols in areas that have been identified as hot spots for crime.

“Staying in those areas where we’re experiencing activity helps decrease the numbers across the board,” explains Capt. Chris Hensley with the Chesterfield Police Department.

The department implemented geographic policing in 2009, and Hensley believes it contributed to yearly declines in robberies, larcenies and other crimes.

Homicides ticked slightly upward, from seven in 2011 to 10 in 2012. Six were domestic in nature, and there was one officer-involved shooting, in which a man was killed during a police standoff.

Only one of last year’s homicides remains unsolved.

The department is still seeking information on the shooting death of 36-year-old Joshua Coomer. He was killed inside his mother’s Newberry Towne townhouse on Nov. 29 around 11:30 p.m., while his mother slept in a nearby room. She is not a suspect in the crime. Anyone with information about Coomer’s murder is urged to call Crime Solvers at 748- 0660.

Drug violations ticked upward for the third year in a row. Adult marijuana arrests continued a sharp climb this year, up from 978 in 2010 to 1,426 in 2012. Adult arrests for controlled substances and schedule I and II drugs also ticked upward, from 319 in 2010 to 429 last year.

Capt. Brad Badgerow credits geographic policing with the rise in arrests.

“I don’t believe that we’ve done any big look for drugs as far as our patrol techniques go, but we have designed our patrols around our high crime areas,” he says.

Increased patrols in higher crime areas, such as the Jefferson Davis Highway corridor near the city line and the Chippenham Parkway corridor, have led to more arrests for drug possession.

Arsons were also up last year, increasing from 49 in 2011 to 70 in 2012.

“We had a couple of serial arson cases,” Hensley says. “The one that probably affected the statistical data the most involved the area of Walton Park. We had a person who was setting bags of trash on fire in the roadway.”

The department believes that suspect may be responsible for about 15 arsons in the Walton Park area. No arrest has been made, and the suspicious fires have stopped.

There were 1,595 burglaries last year, up from 1,495 in 2011. Thefts of precious metals, such as platinum and copper, contributed to the increase. Burglars often target vacant residences because they can safely remove copper water pipes and components from heating/air conditioning systems without detection. Those materials can then be sold to metal recycling companies for a hefty profit.

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