Crime spiked in Canton by 16 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to an annual FBI statistical report. The report does not include 2012 crimes and does not encompass every type of crime reported by the public or investigated by police.
Violent crime and property crime in the city combined to spike 16 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to FBI statistics released Monday.
The Canton Police Department voluntarily submits the statistics to the FBI for eight categories — homicide, rape, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, larceny-theft, vehicle theft and arson.
Violent crime increased 24.2 percent and property crime rose 15.3 percent, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which is used to gauge crime trends nationally.
The figures do not include any crime statistics for 2012 or every type of crime reported by the public or investigated by police.
Homicides increased from two in 2010 to 12 last year. The two homicides in 2010 were the lowest since at least the 1960s. Police Chief Bruce Lawver said the 2010 homicide figure was an “anomaly.” He noted that 16 homicides occurred in a recent year.
Safety Director Thomas Ream said the primary factor in the overall statistical increase is the lack of available jail bed space in 2011 due to county government’s financial constraints.
“We look at these on a monthly basis,” Ream said of the statistics. “We were aware that in 2011 we spiked and it absolutely corresponded with the (closing of a significant number of) beds at the county jail.”
“They negatively affected our policing strategies,” he said. “... When there’s not sufficient jail bed space to handle the needs of the community, it will negatively impact the crime rates and that’s exactly what happened.”
A county sales tax issue, which focused on the jail concerns, passed on the ballot. Bed usage has increased at the jail and county officials expect it to be around the optimum level by the end of the year.
Police Chief Bruce Lawver echoed Ream’s comments.
“That was no fault of the county, but when you are making those arrests ... and they had no other choice but to release that person back out, that was causing more crimes,” he said.
“I’m sure the county was just as frustrated as we were at that time, but I think they are almost back up to capacity and things are running well,” the chief said of the county jail.
Lawver agreed with the FBI that caution should be exercised when reviewing the Uniform Crime Reporting figures.
While Lawver described the statistics as a “broad stroke,” he also said the information can be a useful tool in the “intelligence-led policing” efforts instituted by the department.
The approach includes the establishment of a unit to focus on a string of shootings, Lawver explained. That program has led to about 40 arrests related to the shootings and the confiscation of 15 guns along with contraband, he said.
The figures may provide an “overall indicator about crime in Canton, but you’ve got to take the opportunity to really analytically dig into it to see exactly what it is ... and what increases there are within that broad range,” Lawver said.
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From 2010 to 2011, total crimes reported to the FBI jumped from 4,827 in to 5,622. Property crimes increased from 4,175 to 4,812 and violent crimes spiked from 652 to 810.
Other increases were burglary: 1,523 in 2010 to 1,854 in 2011; larceny-theft: 2,337 to 2,683; robbery: 324 to 438; and aggravated assault: 272 to 303.
“The obvious thing is definitely these have been very difficult economic times,” Lawver said. “I’m not sure if (it’s) fair to say it’s a cause and (effect), but it seems like common sense it would be.”
Another factor may be the theft of scrap metal and copper from vacant homes, he said.
Two of the eight crime categories decreased. Vehicle thefts dropped from 269 to 250 and arsons dipped from 46 to 25.
The previous two-year period had shown an overall drop in the crime categories tracked by the FBI. From 2009 to 2010, violent crime decreased by 4.5 percent and property crime had slid 2.5 percent.
Police staffing has plunged to a historically low level. Ream, however, said he believes the staffing has not significantly affected “our policing strategy.”
In light of staffing reductions, Lawver said, the department has “to be smart in how we spend our resources and what we go after.”
In the past, the crime statistics have been debated heavily and heatedly in mayoral campaigns. Mayor William J. Healy II made combating and reducing crime a cornerstone of his 2007 campaign. He also has touted the figures as an indicator that efforts to reduce crime have been successful.
Even when the FBI statistics have dropped significantly, Healy has maintained that crime was still a serious concern in some parts of the city.
Ream said he expects the more recent statistical pattern to change in the future.
“We think once they get those beds totally open (at the jail) ... and functioning at a pre-sales tax level, it will force the crime stats down,” he said.