By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
Serious crime in Alexandria decreased 13 percent in 2017, the Alexandria Police Department announced May 24.
The decrease was specifically in Part I crimes, offenses classified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft.
Part I crimes are considered more serious than Part II crimes because they include crimes against people.
The 2017 statistics show some of the lowest levels of reported crimes in Alexandria since the 1960s, according to the release. Since Alexandria generally has a low crime rate, however, small fluctuations in incidents can lead to large percentage changes in annual data comparisons, Police Chief Michael Brown said.
“I caution the percentage increases or decreases largely because our numbers are relatively small for a city this size,” Brown said. “For example, we had one reduced homicide which is a 14 percent decrease, but it’s only one particular case, and any case involving homicide is a serious case we look at.”
Aggravated assaults were the only Part I crimes to increase year-over-year, from 123 in 2016 to 137 in 2017. The police department reported that, in the majority of the cases, the people involved knew each other.
Brown said the statistics this year did not worry him so much as the association of many of the reported crimes with domestic violence. He said calls that have a basis in domestic violence sometimes result in the crimes reported for Part I or Part II statistics.
“An example of that is our homicide cases,” Brown said. “In all but one of those homicide cases last year, there was some domestic violence overtones in the actual case.”
He said the police department was working with partners in the city to find different ways to intervene in situations involving domestic violence before they escalate to a crisis that requires a 9-1-1 call.
With the exception of aggravated assault, all other reported Part I crimes in Alexandria decreased over the
past year. There were 2,694 reported Part I crimes in the city in 2017, down 414 from the 3,108 crimes that were reported in 2016.
“Again, the numbers are small because we live in a very safe city, but the fact that they went down is encouraging,” Brown said.
Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne said he had three takeaways from the 2017 statistics: First, he said, the police department’s new leadership – Brown was appointed police chief in January 2017 – had re-energized and refocused the organization.
Lawhorne said he speculated the second reason for a decrease in crime was the role of technological advances in preventing and solving crimes.
“Today, there’s far more video, forensic evidence, DNA [and] pictures,” Lawhorne said. “That is going to be a huge factor in helping prevent and solve crimes. I think when you prevent crimes, part of that is solving them, and when you get a pattern, you can cut those patterns off quicker.”
Lawhorne said a third reason for decreased crime was the more holistic approach the city and its programs have been taking to rehabilitation, including jail diversion and re-entry programs.
“We’ve been continuing our programs to help people get back on the right track. I would just say it’s more a commitment to, even when people are incarcerated … to redirect that negative behavior,” Lawhorne said.
While Part I crimes decreased overall, calls for service increased significantly from 68,610 to 91,380. The increase was primarily a result of the Vision Zero initiative, Brown said. Not only was there an increase in traffic stops because of the safety initiative, there was also a hike in the number of residents who called in to report issues related to traffic safety, Brown said.
The statistics for reported Part II crime, which includes simple assaults, fraud, vandalism, drug and alcohol related offenses and other less serious crimes, has not been released yet. However, Brown said they would reflect an increase in drug abuse violations and a decrease in alcohol-related offenses.
“I think we live in a safe city, and we hope that this trend continues,” Brown said. “We’re very proud of the officers who do their work day in and day out and … are certainly engaged in trying to make the city safe.”