02/05/04 — Crime rate down

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Crime rate down

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on February 5, 2004 2:02 PM

Police Chief Tim Bell had good news and bad news about crime last year in Goldsboro.

The good news was that the overall crime rate declined by 8 percent, he said, but the bad news was that violent crime rose by 24 percent.

Bell attributed the rise in violent crime to a spate of aggravated assaults and robberies. He said that some reports of violent crimes turned out to be false.

"Aggravated assaults are hard to prevent," he said. "ƒ Many of them happen in private homes. We can't be on every street corner."

The chief said his department was working hard to stop robberies, both armed and unarmed.

Overall, he said, "we had a good year in 2003. I was well pleased."

Bell said his department would continue to concentrate on property and drug crimes.

Violent crimes also include murder, rape and break-ins. The number of murders decreased from 2002, he said.

Bell said property crimes, including vehicle thefts, break-ins, larcenies and possession charges, also were down 11 percent. Petty larcenies, including shoplifting and gas drive-offs, were down 23 percent. The chief declined to give the specific numbers for each category.

Investigation of violent crimes, including robberies, is difficult at times, Bell said, because the victims refuse to cooperate or cannot be found.

"It's hard to work a serious case when you can't get anyone to work with you," he said.

Bell said that if investigators find evidence that the victim had reported a crime that did not happen or the circumstances were not what the victim said they were, then "we'll work the case whichever way it goes." Several people have been charged with filing a false police report.

"These victims are covering up their own mistakes," the chief said. "That costs me and the taxpayers money because someone has to take the report and an investigator has to follow up on it."

Bell said the false reports were one reason that the violent crime rate went up.

The chief said he believed that the statewide and nationwide violent crime rates also were higher.

The Police Department cleared 33 percent of reported crimes with arrests. Bell said he thought that was much better than the statewide average.

Calls for service also increased 19 percent from 40,571 in 2002 to 48,249 last year.

"I don't see that as being bad," Bell said.

One reason for the increased calls, he said, was active neighborhood crime watches.

"We can't be everywhere. If citizens see something out of the ordinary, then they need to call us," Bell said.

The chief said the increase in calls corresponded with the decrease in crime and showed that his officers were doing their jobs.

Bell disagreed that an increased number of indictments showed that crime had risen in 2003.

"If indictments were up, you need to pat the law-enforcement officers on the back," the chief said. "It means they did a better job in clearing cases. I look at all cases, the solved and the unsolved."