The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in its crime victimization survey that violent crimes unexpectedly jumped 18 percent in 2011, the first rise in nearly 20 years, and property crimes rose for the first time in a decade. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation, when it released 2011 data, said both decreased.
The number of violent crimes reported to police decreased 3.8 percent last year to 1.2 million, the fifth straight year of declines, the FBI announced.
Meanwhile, the total number of property crime reported to law enforcement agencies went down by 0.5 percent to 9 million, the ninth consecutive year that figure has fallen. Property crimes resulted in estimated losses of $156.6 billion.
Locally, trends tend to follow an upward swing between 2010 and 2011, although not as drastic as that reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
In April, The Daily Tribune News reported in a three-part series that certain crimes had seen upticks between 2005 and 2008 in Bartow County, coinciding with the economic downturn.
According to data from Cartersville Police Department, robbery, aggravated assault, domestic violence, larceny, arson and burglary increased from 2010 to 2011, with the largest jump seen in cases of domestic violence.
The city reported, however, fewer assault and battery incidents and fewer rapes and forgeries. The number of child abuse reports remained relatively unchanged.
Bartow County Sheriff’s Office reported to the FBI one more homicide in 2011 than in 2010. Robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and larceny also increased. The county turned in fewer rapes, simple assaults and motor vehicle thefts in 2011.
The FBI’s crime reporting program is one of two statistical measures of crime levels issued by the Justice Department. The FBI program captures crimes that are reported to police. Historically, less than half of all crimes, including violent crimes, are reported to police. The other measure, the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ crime victimization survey, is designed to capture crime data whether it is reported to police or not. That survey is based on interviews of crime victims.
Academic experts say the new government data fall short of signaling a reversal of the long-term decline in crime.
The survey found that the increase in the number of violent crimes was the result of an upward swing in simple assaults, which rose 22 percent, from 4 million in 2010 to 5 million last year. The incidence of rape, sexual assault and robbery remained largely unchanged, as did serious violent crime involving weapons or injury.
The experts said the percentage increases last year were so large primarily because the 2011 crime totals were compared to historically low levels of crime in 2010. Violent crime has fallen by 65 percent since 1993, according to the victimization survey.
In Bartow County, law enforcement leaders said in April that the factors affecting crime over the past decade have included a weaker economy and a growing population.
From 2000 to 2010, the county grew more than 31 percent, from 76,019 to 100,157.
“Anytime you get a population increase, you also get an increase in crime. There are career criminals out here. They know … ‘Hey, that’s more houses. That’s more people with stuff,’” Sheriff Clark Millsap said in April.
In 2011, the county reported an increase in the number of burglaries, but BCSO Public Information Officer Sgt. Jonathan Rogers said in mid-October the county was on track to see that number fall in 2012.
According to the FBI, the South accounted for 41.3 percent of violent crime in 2011, while the West had 22.9 percent of it. The Midwest claimed 19.5 percent of the cases and the Northeast 16.2 percent.
In 2011, authorities solved nearly 64 percent of murders, over 40 percent of forcible rapes, nearly 29 percent of robberies and nearly 57 percent of aggravated assaults.
The FBI said firearms were used in two-thirds of the nation’s murders last year, and in two out of every five robberies and in one out of five aggravated assaults.
Fighting to keep crime on the decline is something every level of law enforcement faces.
“Police agencies all around the country are having to fight increasing crime with less or equal funding than in previous years. Unfortunately, many departments are also having to do it with fewer people,” said CPD Public Information Officer Capt. Mark Camp. “We are fortunate in the city of Cartersville in that those in charge of city government are wise and prudent financial managers. … Because of this, and because of the sacrifices of officers, we have been able to operate without positions being cut or officers placed on furlough.”
Camp said the city has begun using technology and a special operations unit to target crime.
“Our recent adoption of the crime mapping software enables us to get a daily, weekly and monthly picture of where criminal activity is being concentrated in the city,” he said. “By having this information available to us, we are able to develop operational plans to target those problem areas, be it through extra patrol, surveillance, business checks, license checks, etc.
“Additionally, we now have a fully staffed special operations unit. Typically, special operations units usually focus on one or two specific crime targets such as traffic violations and drug activity. We, however, use our special operations unit for a variety of targets. … What this does is allows us to meet the needs of the crime mapping analysis without sacrificing service to other areas of the city.”
Millsap said earlier this year that the BCSO had utilized available resources and encouraged community involvement, such as bringing back the citizen’s academy currently under way.
He said the department had upped patrols, added surveillance to hard-hit areas and established officers on stakeouts.
“Our biggest asset right now has been out here aggressively patrolling, putting boots on the ground, putting wheels on the ground, turning wheels, being the places people don’t think we’re going to be because we’re doing our best to outthink them,” Millsap said.
Recently, BCSO created a two-man Sheriff’s Crime Prevention Unit, with plans to add two more officers in the coming months. And, like CPD, the sheriff’s office began increasing its use of technology by adding a Facebook page that has helped capture “most wanted” persons in Bartow County and joining Nixle to issue alerts on traffic, weather and other vital information.
For the full Bureau of Justice Statistics and FBI crime reports, visit http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/ or fbi.gov.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.