Violent crime reported to the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department spikes; property crime up in Ann Arbor, FBI data shows
Violent crime reported to the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department jumped 59 percent in 2008 and property crime increased 8 percent, bucking a national trend that saw violent and property crimes dip slightly, FBI data shows.
In Ann Arbor, violent crime dropped roughly 1 percent, but property crime was up 12 percent compared to 2007, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report released Monday.
Driving the violent crime increase in sheriff's department territory was a 110 percent jump in aggravated assaults, bringing the total to 351.
The FBI data does not include countywide totals; it offers reports from the sheriff's department and Ann Arbor. The sheriff's department patrols several villages and townships in the county, including Ypsilanti Township, Superior Township, Scio Township, Ann Arbor Township, Dexter and Manchester.
Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton and Ann Arbor Police Chief Barnett Jones both pointed to the lagging economy as a contributing factor.
Clayton said he's concerned about police coverage after state troopers were cut during the summer, including five from the Ypsilanti post.
“If you take officers off the street, you run the risk of an increase in some crimes,” he said.
Driving the property crime in Ann Arbor is a 13 percent spike in larcenies and 8 percent increase in burglaries. Motor vehicle thefts are down 8 percent.
People have lost homes, jobs and status, and some are becoming desperate, Jones said. At the same time, iPods, laptops and GPS units that are stolen are often left in plain view in unlocked cars, he said.
Jones said he's concerned about every statistic. “Each one of those statistics indicates that somebody has been victimized,” he said.
The sheriff’s department is working to identify hotspots of criminal activity and step up enforcement and community partnerships in those areas, said Clayton, who took office in January.
In some cases, deputies have already targeted trouble spots. For instance, on MacArthur Boulevard in Superior Township, they stepped up patrols, started programs for youths and worked with housing complex managers to enforce the rules, he said.
“Any increase in crime concerns me,” said Clayton. “Obviously, one of our primary focuses is public safety and improved quality of life in our community.”
There were 109 robberies reported to the sheriff's department, up 18 from a year earlier. The number in the city remained steady at 66.
The sheriff's department investigated five murders in each of the past two years; no homicides occurred in the city.
While there were 10 more forcible rapes reported to the sheriff's department in 2008, there were two fewer in the city.
The number of arsons increased by 12 for the sheriff's department and decreased by two in the city.
While aggravated assaults jumped in the county numbers, there were five fewer in the city than 2007.
Other county sheriff's department numbers include a 22 percent increase in burglaries, 9 percent increase in larcenies and 28 percent decrease in motor vehicle thefts.
While property crime is up in the city, Jones said arsons and aggravated assaults have been declining over the past four years.
In relation to cities similar in size to Ann Arbor, there was a 5 percent decrease in property crime in Flint and 3 percent increase in Lansing.
Nationally, violent crime was down about 2 percent, and property crime dropped about 1 percent, according to the FBI.
On Saturday, Jones, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, and Miller Manor-area residents are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. at Miller Manor to discuss a string of break-ins and how to prevent crime.
Jones is encouraging people to call police anytime the hair is standing up on the back of their neck because they sense something is wrong or out of place.
Hieftje came under scrutiny this week by a local blogger after he wrote to a resident whose home was burglarized, indicating crime continues on a long-term downward trend.
Hieftje said Tuesday he was referring to a general decline in crime since 2000. He also said from Jan. 1 to June 30 of this year, compared to the same period last year, property crime is down 5.7 percent in the city, preliminary police data shows.
He’s confident police will continue to cut down on property crime and is interested to hear what residents have to say at the meeting.
“I just want to be there and see what’s going on,” he said. “I will be happy to respond to anything someone asks me.”
Lee Higgins covers crime and courts for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2527.