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Property crimes down for first half of year

By KBell
Sept. 3, 2010 at 4:03 a.m.


Crime StatsChange in crime for the first six months of 2010 from 2009

Murder

Up 100%

(2009:0, 2010:4)

Rape

Down 5%

Robbery

Down 15%

Aggravated assault

Down 26%

Burglary

Down 24%

Theft

Down 12%

Motor Vehicle Theft

Up 7%

Total

Down 15%

Source: Victoria Police Department

Crime Prevention Unit ProgramsCrime Prevention Classes: Free, scheduled and tailored to what community groups want to discuss

Neighborhood Watch: Organizing citizens in neighborhoods to hold regular meetings and watch out for each other

H.E.A.T.: Help End Auto Theft - A sticker is placed on vehicles that allows officers to pull the cars over between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m. to verify ownership during peak theft hours

VIN Etching: Police will etch your vehicle identification number into each piece of glass on your vehicle in order to deter theft.

Lock-Take-Hide: Public awareness program that reminds people to prevent car theft

Commercial and Residential Security Surveys: Self-administered surveys that allow owners to check the safety of their business or home. Officers will also perform free inspections and offer tips on how to make their home or business safer.

Civilian Police Academy: Lets residents learn how the department functions and provides opportunities for them to volunteer with various programs after graduation.

To help find out how secure your home or business is, go to www.VictoriaAdvocate.com, and click on this story. Then click on the PDFs of home and business security checklists.

Crime stats are down within the city, which officials attribute to more focused crime fighting measures.

The Victoria Police Department shows Class 1 crimes, which include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft, were down 15 percent from January to July, compared to the same period in 2009.

The numbers reflect all incident reports filed by police, said Police Chief Bruce Ure.

"We're very pleased at the trend we're starting to see," Ure said. "The property crimes dropped significantly. Burglary and thefts took a nosedive."

Ure said he attributes the drop to the awareness the police department, particularly its Crime Prevention Unit, has been pushing out to the public.

That could also explain why public perception seems to be that these types of crimes are on the rise.

"We're publicizing all criminal activity, which may give some people the illusion crime is rising," Ure said. "Unfortunately, one or two high-profile crimes give the false impression."

About a year-and-a-half ago, Ure redesigned the department's community services division, which is based at the Victoria Mall, to focus more on crime prevention.

Sgt. Felix Appelt heads that effort with the help of officers Chris Guerra and Willie Whitfield.

Appelt said their strategy is simple, "Recognize current crime trends, educate ourselves, find out how to fix it, and get the education out to the public."

"As one crime rate goes down, there's always going to be some other area that goes up," Appelt said, adding that a larger problem now is check scams.

Just recently, Appelt said, burglaries of vehicles were on the unit's radar.

In order to combat the problem, Appelt said the Crime Prevention Unit went door-to-door in a neighborhood particularly hit by car burglars.

They educated people on how to keep their belongings safe and what kind of suspicious behavior to look out for.

The unit also looked inside cars and handed out orange "Burglary Report Cards," which inform owners whether or not their car is deemed safe from burglaries.

The next year, Appelt said, the neighborhood reported half as many crimes.

A problem with crime statistics, though, is that they only take into account crimes that are reported.

Some people may fear retaliation or may be weary of reporting suspicious behavior out of concern for needlessly occupying officer time, Appelt said.

However, Appelt insisted citizens are one of the best offenses when it comes to preventing crime.

"People need to be aware the police are out there, but you have to do your part," he said.

Crystal De Leon, 24, of Victoria, said she's never afraid to report criminal behavior to the police.

"I have seen people attempting to break into cars, and I call the cops. I think they got scared off because they saw someone with a phone staring at them," De Leon said.

Incidents like that would not be counted in the latest crime statistics, which is one of the reasons De Leon said she and others aren't convinced crime is really down.

Ure said personal experience, like De Leon's, usually dictates the public's perception of crime.

"If you've been a victim of crime or your car gets broken into, and we say crime is down, that means nothing to you," he said.

"The bottom line is, it's not time for us to let up. Clearly we're doing something right, and we're going to intensify."

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