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Suffolk sees slight increase in crime

Suffolk saw a slight increase in violent crime in 2017, but the crime rate per capita stayed roughly the same.

The increase in crime was likely due to an increase in the population, so the numbers are comparable to numbers from 2016, according to Deputy Chief Maj. Gerald Brandsasse.

“Generally, within a population, those increases are associated with economic times, but our economy in Suffolk is good, but population growth can be another factor,” Brandsasse said. “Our increase could be relative to the increase in population. It’s comparable to last year.”

There was a 5-percent increase in the most serious crimes, known as Part I crimes. Robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny motor vehicle theft and arson all increased, but homicide and rape did decrease in 2017.

The biggest reason for the increase was due to a 15 percent increase in burglary, which accounted for 14 percent of Part I crimes, and a three percent increase in larceny, which accounted for nearly three-quarters of Part I crimes.

Suffolk Police put a lot of measures in place to maintain numbers and work to decrease them, Brandsasse said. They do this with regular meetings among administration and leadership as well as programs within the community to provide education about crime prevention.

CompStat, short for compare statistics, reports are looked at monthly by lieutenants and above to discuss trends and debate on what approach to take to handle the trends.

Sometimes the options are to ramp up foot patrol, because foot patrol makes the police presence visible and offers a chance to have conversations with the community.

“We always tell people ‘if you see something, say something,’ because they know if something doesn’t belong in their community,” Brandsasse said.

The police department prioritizes based on what offenses are most reported. In 2017, simple assault, simple domestic assault and destruction of property were the top three reported offenses.

All three offenses were reported more than 500 times, and simple assault was reported more than 600 times.

The Virginia State Police also recently released 2017 crime statistics for jurisdictions in Virginia, although Brandsasse said the numbers aren’t calculated in the same way that Suffolk calculates its own crime.

The state police reported a drop in murder and non-negligent manslaughter from four incidents to three in 2017. Forcible rape and aggravated assault both went up, 71 and 76 incidents respectively, but Brandsasse doesn’t believe that reflects the numbers that the Suffolk Police Department reports.

The Virginia State Police reported almost 400 incidents of law enforcement officers killed and assaulted in the entire commonwealth, but Brandsasse said Suffolk has kept this statistic to a minimum because of its good relationship with the community.

“Our community relationship is not strained, and we do believe we have and continue to foster trust and a relationship with our citizens,” Brandsasse said. “We are taking more time to have conversations with the public, and that has been emphasized this year.”

The Suffolk Police Department has also avoided an uptick in assaults on officers, because they have spent time training with de-escalation tactics, Brandsasse said.

Suffolk is growing, and part of the growth has resulted in larger numbers of traffic fatalities in 2017.

“Suffolk has grown not just in population but in industry and business, so that means there is more traffic on the roadways,” Brandsasse said.

To shrink the number of traffic fatalities, the department has spent time redirecting assets to the roadways, and it has also been helpful to educate individuals to call in when they see people speeding or driving recklessly.

“To help with traffic, we have to increase visibility, and the intent is deterrence,” Brandsasse said.