Violent crimes up, but property down|[1/6/06]

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 6, 2006

Violent crime rates in the city and county were up slightly in 2005, but both jurisdictions reported an overall decrease in property-related offenses in 2005.

The homicide tally more than doubled to seven from three in 2004. All seven occurred inside the City of Vicksburg and were investigated by the Vicksburg Police Department.

One of the cases classified under the homicide category in 2005 was a contract killing that did not result in an actual homicide, said Deputy Chief Richard O’Bannon, but 2005 was the first year of Chief Tommy Moffett’s four-year tenure in which the homicide rate rose from the previous year.

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Other violent crime numbers remained steady in both the city and county. There were 33 total rapes reported in 2005, up from 23 in 2004 but fewer than the previous three years.

Aggravated assault numbers rose slightly in the city and county, but the Warren County Sheriff’s Department saw an increase in overall assaults for the third consecutive year.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said the numbers were still low when compared to other jurisdictions.

&#8220Our violent crime rate is certainly below the crime rates in other communities our size,” said Pace. &#8220We didn’t have a murder (in the county) last year.”

Larcenies and theft reports were down significantly in the city and county, though the city’s success in reducing small property crimes – the VPD handled fewer than 1,500 larcenies and thefts last year after seeing almost 2,000 cases in 2004 – was offset by an increase in the number of burglaries from 300 to 404.

Many of the burglaries are committed by the same people or groups of people, said Moffett, many of whom are familiar faces to police personnel.

&#8220There are a number of people our officers arrest who are out on parole, whose cases are pending but they’re out of jail, out on bond,” said Moffett. &#8220In one case for certain an individual was arrested for multiple burglaries, was out on bond and arrested for multiple burglaries again.”

Moffett’s goal is to push for more jail time for repeat offenders and increase the number of officers on the force. He also concedes the department remains understaffed.

&#8220We want to get our numbers up in the police department,” said Moffett, whose department employs 75 officers, down from 108 in October 2001, and is seeking to bring that number into the mid-80s. &#8220We’re constantly trying to hire new officers. We have quite a bit of turnover.”

Pace said he was most encouraged by a drop in the number of total investigations his department made last year – 2,350, which was 200 fewer than in 2004 – and specifically the number of traffic crashes, down to 225 from 295. Despite the increase in fraud cases, he said he was pleased that his department had made arrests in all 99 investigations.

Working to reduce property crimes will continue to remain a priority, Pace said, especially recovering stolen goods in what he described as an increasingly fluid market in which televisions, VCRs and other hot items may be sold or bartered directly for drugs.

&#8220We will continue to target narcotics investigations, which is the root of so much of the crime and also continue to target property crimes that so affect the general population,” said Pace. &#8220But we have never been a statistically driven agency. To me, it’s not about the numbers. It’s about asking, ‘Have you done all you can do to be of service to the public?’”.

Charges are pending against multiple defendants in five of the city’s homicides and in the contract homicide case.

No arrest has been made in one case, that of the drive-by shooting of David W. &#8220Jones” Anderson, who was 41. Anderson was leaving the Elks Lodge at 2916 Walnut St. when shot multiple times on July 17. Crimestoppers and family reward funds have been established in the case.