CPD issues stats, maps to raise crime awareness

While violent crime is down, property crime has risen from 2007.
Katie Currid / Graphic Designer

Property crime is on the rise in Columbia during the last year, and violent crime is down sharply, according to crime statistics released by the Columbia Police Department on Thursday. Police also put out their first map of the city's monthly crime to help citizens be more vigilant, police said.

A news release from Interim Police Chief Tom Dresner showed violent crime is down 36.5 percent, but property crime, such as burglary and larceny, is up 18.9 percent from 2007.

Violent crimes and auto thefts saw major drops in 2008, and crimes like assaults, rapes and robberies are down by almost a third in total. Dresner attributed the fall to CPD implementing a Street Crimes Unit to arrest wanted and career criminals, helping the department clear such cases at a faster rate than the national average, according to a CPD news release.

The report also showed auto thefts are down by more than 33 percent, which Dresner attributed to the continuation of the department's Bait Car Program, a sting operation that snares potential car thieves by having police watch certain cars that criminals are attracted to.

These findings are part of CPD's 2008 Uniform Crime Reporting Procedures, an annual compilation of crimes reported in the community and collected by the FBI each year.

Dresner called for Columbia residents' help in decreasing property crimes in the city and gave several tips in the news release for preventing thefts, such as maintaining good lighting around property and being watchful of valuables.

The department also put out a map of crimes in the city from January of this year. CPD Capt. Stephen Monticelli said the map, which is available on the department's Web site, will be used to assign officers neighborhoods and to identify the types of crime that warrant special attention.

In an e-mail to City Manager Bill Watkins, Monticelli said such maps will be posted twice per week and will contain data on crime from the previous two weeks. He said the maps were intended as a snapshot of criminal activity in the city and hoped they would provide a quicker response for emergencies.

The maps show a majority of January crimes were larcenies and thefts, the same kind of property crimes in which CPD saw increases of 40 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

Monticelli said the maps would help officers target areas where activity was especially high for extra enforcement. He said burglars work geographically, staying in a certain neighborhood, and officers need to stay up with those trends.

"We're trying to get as fresh of information as we can to our officers," Monticelli said.

Monticelli said community members could also learn from the maps by downloading them from the Internet and studying crime in their neighborhoods. While he encouraged all citizens to be vigilant, Monticelli said the maps could emphasize the importance for certain areas.

"It's good to be able to let the community know 'hey, be a little more alert' if you live in a certain area," Monticelli said.

Monticelli said community involvement would mean more than just observing crime, and also include reporting it immediately so the department can quickly respond and have a better chance of preventing future crimes.

"It's going to depend on the community seeing for us and calling us or our officers being on the scene," Monticelli said. "We really need the eyes and ears of the community in these situations."

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