Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Statewide crime numbers are out. How does the Williamsburg area stack up?

Police armed with riot gear arrive on the scene. They moved through the parking lot of Hardee's, located across second Street from Ebby's. (WYDaily/Andrew Harris)
Police armed with riot gear arrive on the scene of a shooting at Ebby’s Auto Painting & Collision Repair in July 2017. They moved through the parking lot of Hardee’s, located across second Street from the auto body shop. (WYDaily/Andrew Harris)

It’s that time of the year again: State and local agencies have released their annual crime statistic reports for 2017.

While Virginia’s overall crime increased by more than 3,000 offenses, crime rates in James City County, Williamsburg and York County dropped slightly since last year.

Some crimes in the Williamsburg area increased from 2016 to 2017 — such as robbery and aggravated assault in James City County — but, overall, statistics show there were fewer reported crimes in the region.

Violent crime remained mostly steady in all three localities.

While local law enforcement officials say the changes in crime from 2016 to 2017 are not drastic, they agree this year’s statistics are part of an overall downward trend in crime in the Williamsburg region.

Statewide

Virginia saw a slight uptick in crime from 2016 to 2017, Virginia State Police data show.

Each year, state police release a crime report using data reported by each individual law enforcement agency, as well as state police officers.

“Crime is of great concern to all citizens of Virginia,” state police Superintendent Col. Gary Settle said in the report’s foreword. “By use of crime statistics, criminal justice agencies can make an informed decision concerning the most efficient and effective manner in which to dedicate their limited resources toward the reduction of crime in their communities.”

The number of Group A crimes increased by 3,410 offenses, including murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, forgery and embezzlement. Law enforcement agencies reported 437,369 Group A offenses in 2017, and Group A arrests increased by 5,246 statewide.

Related: Is crime increasing in the Historic Triangle? Statistics say ‘no’

Police reported an increase of 1,597 arrests for Group B offenses, which include disorderly conduct and trespassing.

Law enforcement agencies across the state reported more 18,000 violent crime offenses involving over 21,000 individual victims. Hate crime offenses also increased from 137 to 202 incidents.

The most common ages of arrestees were 25 to 29, at 17.2 percent of total arrests.

The data also show a majority of violent crimes — such as murder, aggravated assault, forcible rape and sexual assault — occurred at residences or homes.

The majority of robberies in Virginia happened on highways, roads or in alleys.

James City County

James City County statistics show a bump in violent crime, but state police statistics still show the overall crime rate decreasing in the area.

Data looking back to 2008 shows crimes such as homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault gradually increased from 2008 to 2017 in James City County, only dipping in 2012 and 2013.

James City County Police Department (WYDaily/File photo)
James City County Police Department (WYDaily/File photo)

There were 106 total homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults reported to James City County Police in 2017, compared to 81 in 2016. The 25-crime jump is the largest annual increase in the last nine years.

James City County Police officials said the increase in violent crime numbers could be a result of various initiatives to encourage victims to report crimes.

One of the objectives of the [police] department is to promote and build trust in the community through various community policing efforts,” James City County Police spokeswoman Stephanie Williams said. “These efforts may increase crime rates simply because people are more comfortable talking to police and reporting crimes.”

Williams added that police have worked with community partners such as Avalon and a multidisciplined sexual assault team chaired by the local commonwealth’s attorney to encourage victims to report crimes.

While violent crime increased, state police data show the crime rate based on population decreased between 2016 and 2017.

James City County’s population increased by just over 1,000 residents between 2016 and 2017, state police data show.

The crime rates were 4,101.06 per 100,000 people and 3,669.6 crimes per 100,000 people in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

York County

In York County, law enforcement reported fewer violent crimes, and, like James City County and Williamsburg, the overall crime rate decreased.

York County had 135 violent crimes in 2016 and 124 in 2017.

Sheriff J. D. “Danny” Diggs said he doesn’t believe the change in crime numbers between 2016 and 2017 was statistically significant and doesn’t indicate a sharp change in either direction.

“The number is so small, it can change very quickly,” Diggs said, adding that one or two people’s crime sprees over a weekend — breaking into neighborhood cars, for example — could increase the number of offenses substantially.

A graph shows the decreasing crime rate in York County over the years. (WYDaily/Courtesy of YPSO)
A graph shows the decreasing crime rate in York County over the years. (WYDaily/Courtesy of YPSO)

Diggs added that the number of crimes and the crime rate based on population fluctuate year by year, but there has been an overall downward trend in crime for about two decades.

York County’s crime rate decreased from 4,314.35 per 100,000 people in 2016 to 3,970.09 per 100,000 in 2017.

“We’re glad they’re down, but it’s nothing to get too excited about,” the sheriff said.

Besides regular patrols, Diggs said the sheriff’s office is working to educate the public, which can help lower crime rates. Larcenies are one of the most common crimes in the county, making up about a third of the county’s total offenses.

“The best thing is education,” Diggs said. “If we could get everybody to lock their cars, this would go down significantly.”

Williamsburg

Williamsburg followed the area trend, with both the total number of crimes and the crime rate decreasing.

From 2016 to 2017, the city’s total crime decreased by 33 incidents, from 652 in 2016 to 619 in 2017.

Violent crime increased from 28 reported crimes in 2016 to 31 in 2017, an increase police department spokesman Maj. Greg Riley said is not statistically significant.

The most common crime in Williamsburg in 2017 was larceny, followed by assault, Riley said.

“The Williamsburg Police use every available technology and accepted best law enforcement practices to prevent crime and to locate and apprehend offenders when crime occurs,” Riley said.

Like York County, the city also places an emphasis on education in crime prevention.

“We are also actively engaged in the prevention effort by working with our community, business and otherwise, to provide education and information on self-prevention and awareness,” Riley said.


Fearing can be reached at sarah.f@localvoicemedia.com.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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