2012 crime rates expected to show slight drop for the year

Sunday, December 30, 2012
Members of the Cape Girardeau Police Department search an unidentified man after a reported armed robbery in August near the intersection of William Street and West End Boulevard. The man was later taken into custody. (ADAM VOGLER)

By the time the numbers are tallied, the overall crime rate in Cape Girardeau County -- and in much of Missouri -- is expected to be lower in 2012 than the year before, if just a tad, according to preliminary data made available by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

In a year marked by crazed gunmen who randomly massacred moviegoers, first-graders and firefighters, declines of any sort -- especially those expected in the most violent crimes such as rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- were welcomed by police.

One notable number, according to the data the patrol compiles for the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, stands out. The number of murders in Cape Girardeau will see a hike, as incidents of homicide will climb by at least one by the time reports are complete.

Still, as they stand, the overall rates are in decline, with about a month's worth of data yet to be compiled, the patrol said. That defies traditional thinking, which maintains that weak economies translate into upticks in crime.

"That hasn't been true for us the last couple of years," said patrol spokesman Capt. Jay Hull. "Regardless of what the economy's doing, we have crime here, too. But Missouri has typically been a pretty safe place to live compared to some of the other areas in the country."

Cape Girardeau County, too, apparently. Through about the end of November, violent crime reports stood at about 257, more than 12 percent less than last year. Property crimes, which include burglary, theft and arson, likely will see little change though, the data suggest, with numbers that are close, with weeks of reports to add.

Property crimes stood at 3,153 incidents in the county, compared to last year's 3,243, which shows about a 3-percent decrease. If nothing changed, Cape Girardeau would have a total crime index for 2012 of 3,348, a 2.5 percent decrease from 2011's 3,439.

The number of robberies for the year is about 62, down from the 97 reported last year for a 35 percent drop. Aggravated assaults, once the numbers have been tallied, may climb; they currently stand largely unchanged at 179 to last year's 177.

Theft has dropped, though, with 2,346 reports, down 5 percent.

Missouri, as a whole, may fare better than Cape Girardeau County. Homicides were down from 368 last year to 335; rapes were down to 1,247 from last year's 1,349; and 5,056 robberies were reported in 2012, compared to last year's 6,264. The state's total crime index for the year is slightly more than 2 million, down from last year's nearly 2.3 million.

Darin Hickey, a police officer with the Cape Girardeau Police Department, said he understands how the numbers alone may mean little to the public.

"I've been doing this 13 years and a lot of this starts running together," Hickey said. "This year, nothing seems excessive. Of course, when you're talking about crime, nothing seems minor either."

Each year, certain crimes capture the public's attention and seem to indicate a problem in that area. This year, for example, saw a 17-year-old high-school girl certified as an adult and charged with a hate crime in an attack against a lesbian. Burglary sprees took place in Cape Girardeau and Jackson. A nursing home worker was charged in an elderly-abuse case after she struck a woman in her 90s.

"Those things happen here," Hickey said. "It's just that last year, something else was going on so nobody noticed it."

Hickey also stressed the data don't represent the actual number of crimes -- only reported crimes.

"There are violations that I'm sure never get reported to us," Hickey said.

Such crime statistics are simply a way to offer a snapshot for the public and law enforcement. If burglaries are up, he said, then residents can react accordingly, either by adding a security system or a fence. Law enforcement can step up patrols.

"Our goal is to make a safer community for everyone," Hickey said. "A lot of times we can't do it without community involvement."

It should be remembered, Hickey said, that in crime statistics, the numbers aren't numbers. They're victims.

"To me, it's all about the victims," Hickey said. "Police officers deal with people on their worst day -- whether it's the victims or the ones we arrest. That's what we try to remember."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-2642

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