09/15/09 — Murders up in city, but other crime decreases

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Murders up in city, but other crime decreases

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on September 15, 2009 1:46 PM

Break-ins and homicides were up in 2009, but reported crime incidents of rape, larceny, motor vehicle theft, aggravated assault, and robbery were down in Goldsboro when compared to the same yearlong period in 2008, Police Chief Tim Bell said.

Overall, crime was down 8 percent for the 2009 year, with a total of 1,841 reportable incidents compared to 2,003 incidents reported the prior year.

Bell said he was encouraged by the significant decrease in many of the city's reportable crime statistics, but was concerned by the increase in break-ins and murders.

Crime Stoppers chief executive Bill Troutman said he thinks the economy might be playing a role in the increase in break-ins.

"Those are areas that may or may not be linked to the economy," Troutman said, adding that his analysis was speculative.

The police chief used numbers his department compiles as Uniform Crime Reports, which are compiled annually by the FBI for use in making national crime statistics.

In summary, here are the statistics Bell provided, from July 2008 through July 2009, compared with the previous year.

Crime rate increases:

*Homicide -- the statistics doubled. There were four homicides within the city of Goldsboro's limits in the one-year period. "It's not a good sign," Bell said, although he also said its hard to predict when a homicide might occur.

*Break-ins -- Goldsboro continues to have a problem with break-ins at the city's homes. There was a 9 percent reported increase in break-ins for the 2009 year.

*Simple assault -- up 4 percent in cases reported to the FBI.

Crime rate decreases:

*Rape -- down 67 percent.

*Aggravated assault -- down 11 percent.

*Larcenies -- down 13 percent.

*Motor vehicle thefts -- down 30 percent.

In a down economy, Bell said some of the statistics were surprising, but called it "a pretty good year."

"Break-ins are up 9 percent -- that's something you don't want to see," Bell said.

When it comes to reports of armed robberies, a year's reported statistics can be highly dependent on whether one person or another is behind bars, the chief said.

"We can have one person that starts robbing convenience stores. That will just tear you apart (statistically)."

As far as the other decreased statistics, Bell said he didn't have anything scientific

"It's hard to put a pinpoint on why all this other crime is down -- hopefully maybe some bad people ... are in prison."

Troutman said he was concerned about an increase in murders.

"Any (increase) would be too much," Troutman said.

Because the District Attorney's office also plays a role in putting offenders behind bars, Bell also praised that office for its efforts.

"It's good work from us, and good work form the justice system and the courts," Bell said.

The Rev. William J. Barber, who plays a leadership role in the locally based Stop the Funeral Initiative, said the increase in murders is something of which to take notice.

"The community, the schools and the judicial system must work together in many ways to build and strengthen public safety efforts," Barber said. "One life lost to violence is always one too many, no matter what the percentages say."

Troutman said he hoped his organization could take some of the credit for bringing down certain crime rates. The organization seeks tips from community members about criminal activity and offers rewards for information leading to arrests. The organization is funded, in part, by donations from local individuals and businesses.

"I'm sure that Crime Stoppers has had an impact on some of these, thefts of motor vehicles, I'm sure we've had some impact there. A lot of information that we get are in those kinds of areas," the executive said.

People also need to take steps to avoid being victims of crime, the police chief said. Bell cited one recent incident in which a woman's purse was stolen through her open car window.

"There's not much we can do to prevent that," Bell said. "But it's still a reportable vehicle break-in and larceny.

"That's where people have to take their own responsibility to not be victims of crime. We don't need to make it easy and convenient for people to violate the law, and make us victims of crime."