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Crime down in first six months of 2005
By Ruth Longoria
Law enforcement personnel on the Island have probable cause to celebrate -- crime is down, according to statistics released at the end of June by the city's Department of Public Safety.
A review of the numbers requires some perspective. While crime on the Island certainly occurs, it is still a fairly secure and safe place to live. Over the years, there is seldom violent crime reported.
But despite the good news, public safety officials remind residents to be vigilant.
Property crimes remains the biggest issue for Island police.
The number of burglaries reported on the Island for the first half of the year fell by nearly half, from 50 burglaries in 2004 to 27 in 2005. Car thefts fell by one-third in the first six months of the year from from 35 to 23.
``A lot of agencies had a rise in crime last year,'' said Ron Elsoe, public safety director. ``So, I feel really good that it's going back down.''
One incident of forcible rape was reported on the Island in 2004, and none during the first half of this year.
Despite what may seem like a lot of vandalism in the past few months at area parks, schools and the community center, malicious mischief is down from a year ago. There were 103 such acts in 2004 and 51 in 2005 -- a 50 percent drop.
There was one aggravated assault arrest for a juvenile to date this year; there were none in 2004. The number of juvenile arrests for other forms of major offenses, such as larceny and auto theft are down considerably. There were three juvenile arrests for car thefts in 2004 and none this year. Larceny arrests for juveniles went from 10 in 2004 to two in 2005. Weapons-related arrests also dropped for juveniles from four arrests in 2004 to one this year. Drug-related arrests dropped from 19 to six. However, liquor violations for juveniles stayed the same at 11 arrests each year.
Adult crime on the Island has also declined during the first six months of 2005, including a drop in theft/larceny arrests from 11 in 2004 to just one this year. Narcotics and drug-related arrests fell about one-third from 18 to 13. But, DUI arrests have stayed the same at 12 arrests in each year through June, and there was a slight increase in stolen property crimes from three incidents in 2004 to five this year.
The number of auto accidents for the year to date are down from 115 to 102. Injuries in car accidents dropped from 25 to 20. Police are hoping that good police work has been effective in improving traffic safety and awareness.
Those statistics may be related to the number of citations issued for the year, which has shown a significant increase, from 1,024 moving violations in 2004 to 1,525 in 2005.
``Citations are good, when they have the effect that they reduce accidents,'' Elsoe said. ``We always see a correlation between the two, accidents always go down when there are more citations.''
People tend to slow down when they see a high level of police presence, said Police Commander Ed Holmes. ``We don't like to give out a lot of tickets for revenue or anything like that, but citations do play a part in helping to modify behavior, and that reduces accidents,'' he said.
Holmes and Elsoe credit a combination of public education and good police work with the reduced rates of crime on the Island. Residents have become more aware about identity theft and how to protect themselves by locking up valuables, including mail and automobiles.
Outside law enforcement agencies also share the credit, Elsoe said.
Targeting certain crimes in neighboring jurisdictions also has been helpful.
``When Bellevue makes an arrest of a high profile car theft, it impacts us,'' Elsoe said. ``There are a lot of variables involved, but the good news is -- crime is down.''