Eight homicides were committed in the City last year — versus five in 2006 — giving the City, at least statistically, a 60 percent rise in murders in 2007.
While police officials say the year-over-year bump in the numbers does not constitute a crime wave by any stretch, the Alexandria Police Department reported Tuesday that serious, or “Part 1” crimes increased by 29 offenses in 2007. The increase was less than a percentage point (0.8%) and was caused primarily by a rise in larcenies, particularly thefts from automobiles, which tallied up to 2,663 last year (4.2 percent increase).
“Despite the increase, Alexandria continues to experience record lows in its overall Part 1 crime rate,” reported Ashley Hilldebrand, an Alexandria Police spokesperson. “Homicide and larceny increased in 2007, while rape, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault and auto theft fell below levels recorded in calendar year 2006.”
The number of homicides for 2007 increased by one last month, due to a medical examiner ruling in the October 17, 2007, death of Devin Bustamante, 2 months old, of Alexandria. The child was brought to Alexandria Hospital by his parents and pronounced dead a short time later. The medical examiners initial ruling as to cause of death was inconclusive. Additional forensic testing was ordered.
On March 3, 2008, the medical examiners office ruled the childs manner of death to be homicide. The cause of death was found to be a head injury. As a result of this ruling, the case has been reclassified from a Sudden Death to a Homicide.
Thefts from automobiles continues to be a troubling trend for police officials, who say the latest auto larceny crime trend has been fueled by the next generation of portable devices, like Global Positioning Systems, or GPS, which can provide drivers real-time mapping coordinates and directions; and MP3 digital music players, which can store a persons entire CD collection inside a miniature-sized electronic gadget so small it can fit into ones shirt pocket.
In Old Town, particularly, the items stolen have been generally a combination of GPS devices, iPod music systems, and/or cash. As stereo systems have gotten more complex in terms of being built into the cars dashboard, and dismantling airbags is a manual job, today’s modern street criminals have turned away from the heavy lifting required to lift such items.
Face it, they call these items portables for a reason,” a police official said. “A robber can just reach in and grab a GPS system, which retails for between $300 and $600, right off the cars windshield or dash. Even if they only get a third of the stolen merchandises worth through a pawn shop or other fencing method, thats still a sizable amount of money for not a lot of effort.
But, if a GPS system can tell you where you are — anywhere on Earth — why cant police officers simply find a way to track down those locators that have been stolen? Jessica Myers, a spokesperson for Garmin International, the industry leader in GPS device sales, said the companys products have been designed to receive a signal, but, in no way can they actually feed back to our satellites their current location, like more expensive theft protection devices such as LoJack or OnStar.
In 2006, the company introduced the GarminLock password protection system into its Street Pilot and C-500 series of GPS products. While you still assign the traditional alpha-character password like you would a home or office computer, GarminLock allows the user to set a specific location, say Grandmas house or your favorite shopping center, to be the homebase, unlocking your device if youve forgotten your password, she said.
That defensive tool doesnt provide any protection to those residents and downtown visitors who have either an older-model GPS system or MP3 player. Suspects generally find these items by simply peering into a car casually, the police official said. Theyre an easy mark when theyre in plain view. So, I implore people to put all portable devices out of sight, either in the glove box, the console, or somewhere, and theyll be less likely to walk away.
2007 Alexandria Crime Statistics