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Total crime drops 7.1 percent



Published: Wed, February 6, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The biggest jump came in the rape category; the biggest drop came in motor vehicle thefts.

By JoANNE VIVIANO

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Although the overall crime rate in the city continues to spiral downward, violent crime in the city took a jump upward in 2001.

Total crime in 2001 went down 7.1 percent, and property crimes decreased 9.2 percent. Violent crime, however, rose 5.56 percent.

Police Chief Richard Lewis said he's pleased with the numbers overall, but he still has concern over the number of homicides and reported felonious assaults and rapes.

He said community awareness, saturating the streets with police patrols and aggressive prosecution have helped keep rates relatively static.

"Numbers have been holding steady or going down with the exception of crimes against persons, rapes and assaults and homicides," Lewis said.

"And we continue to address those issues, but some of those issues are very difficult to deal with. These are crimes of emotion, crimes of passion, crimes of retaliation. You can't control a person's emotions."

Biggest problem: In the violent crime category, rapes took the biggest leap, rising 30 percent from 2000 to 2001.

Detective Sgt. Delphine Baldwin-Casey said most of the reported rapes are acquaintance rapes and not those committed by strangers. Generally, the suspects are men that female victims recently have met.

Baldwin-Casey, who handles adult rape cases for the department, said a key to lowering rape statistics is to educate the community on ways to prevent date rapes.

She advises women to be aware of the men they spend time with and their attitudes toward women and to make it clear what their limits are. She also advises women to avoid secluded places when on dates, to avoid alcohol and drugs, and to drive their own vehicles.

Among other violent crimes, homicides rose 6.25 percent from 2000 to 2001, and felonious assaults climbed by 8.2 percent.

The only violent crime to take a dip was robbery, inching down by 0.83 percent.

Lewis said increased police presence has helped create a positive change in the property crime area. There, the biggest decrease came in motor vehicle thefts, which plummeted 32.1 percent from 2000 to 2001.

Arsons also dropped, going down by 14.4 percent. Burglaries dropped by 12.8 percent, and thefts decreased by 0.44 percent.

What's behind this: Lewis said the decrease is due to many factors, including aggressive police patrolling.

At least eight additional officers patrol two or three times weekly in the city's Weed and Seed area. Starting its third year, the federally funded Weed and Seed is a South Side crime-fighting and neighborhood redevelopment program.

The city's South Side continues to be the department's "main target area," Lewis said.

Weed and Seed officers focus on a different quality-of-life issue during each patrol. For example, they may focus on street corner drug dealers or drug houses.

"Any time there is a police presence in a particular area, it tends to help us in our mission of crime prevention," the chief said.

Lewis said communities in the neighborhoods also are making a difference.

The city's 56 neighborhood block watch programs, especially the 35 active groups, help to keep crime down, the chief said.

Further making the difference in crime rates, Lewis said, is the city's involvement in the Mahoning Valley Drug Task Force and the Violent Crimes Task Force.

Aggressive prosecution and local offices of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also contribute, the chief added.

viviano@vindy.com




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