Crime rates drop in 2012

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 14, 2013

SALISBURY — Despite upticks in home burglaries and vandalism, Salisbury’s crime rate dipped significantly in 2012, records show.
Salisbury officers filled out nearly 450 less reports last year than in 2011, including drops in violent crime and drugs. Authorities also saw zero murders for the year.
“That honestly demonstrates some outstanding skill in our criminal investigations department as well as our patrol division,”?Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins said Friday.
Two years removed from 10 murders in 2010, as well as two officer-involved shootings, police responded to only one fatal shooting —?a self-defense killing in February.
But the crime rates weren’t the only positive statistics, Collins said.
Detectives also posted a 44 percent case-clearance rate for the most serious crimes, higher than the 32.1 percent national average.
Collins cited his Police Interdiction Team, P.I.T. — a specialized unit deployed specifically in problematic neighborhoods throughout the city — as one reason some offenses, including drugs, have fallen. The department saw 487 drug reports in 2011, but just 351 in 2012.
Being proactive, Collins said, has allowed authorities to prevent some violent crimes as well.
Drugs have “been here all along,” Collins said.?But a reorganization in 2011 helped officers prevent more crimes, he said.
“The way the department was structured, they weren’t able to be as proactive as they are now,” he said.
Sgt. John Lanier, who heads P.I.T., said community complaints are one reason P.I.T. targets specific communities.
“We will go and do different things. We’ll use high-visibility patrol, everybody in marked cars. We’ll also go in unmarked cars and plain clothes, everybody in surveillance,”?Lanier said.
The stats didn’t come as a surprise, Lanier said. Officers can tell when they’re having a good year.
“Oh yeah. You can see a drop when you’re out and about,” he said.
But Lanier said his officers’ goal isn’t good numbers.
“No matter what the crime rate is, they go out every day wanting to find the bad guy,”?he said. “They’re looking to get guns and drugs off the street.”
The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office also saw drops in murder, robberies and larceny rates.
Deputies reported only one murder in 2012 — the shooting death of Mooresville Road store owner Hecham Abualeinan in December.
Investigators from other departments in the county handled the three additional murders: East Spencer resident Joan Lark, by East Spencer Police, 17-year-old Daniel Cooper and Davis Gilyard Jr., both by Kannapolis Police.
For deputies, records show the total crime index, a standard for comparing crime across the nation, dropped from 1713 to 1544.
That includes the 13 reported robberies for the year, down from 19 in 2011.
But Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said statistics only show so much, especially murder rates, which can be domestic, gang-related or drug-related in nature.
“To some degree, murders just happen,”?Auten said.
The sheriff said he does watch the crime rates for significant spikes, but said statistics are difficult to validate.
“Some people don’t report things at all,” he said. “Some people report things that aren’t valid.”
Salisbury Police saw their biggest drop for the year in theft, falling 21 percent from 2011 to 2012.
Last year, Collins said, officers saw a boom in larcenies as scrap metal theft exploded across the state.
Scrap theft has slowed, authorities said, in part due to stricter scrapping laws that went into effect on Oct. 1.
“I definitely think that’s true,”?Collins said. “Unfortunately, I do think some dealers around will allow things to slide and that doesn’t help us.”
Collins credited the community with playing a role in the slumping numbers, too.
“I feel like we have established a good relationship throughout the community,” he said. “As a result, they feel confident calling and providing us information that leads to arrests and allows us to prevent issues.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.