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APD reports decrease in crime

By Shannon Beamon
Staff Writer
Crime rates have dipped down in Albemarle.
According to Albemarle Police Department’s Annual Report for 2017, indexed crime (violations recorded by N.C. Department of Justice) went down 24 percent in the city last year. Overall crime (which includes non-indexed crime, as well) went down about 7 percent.
“We are pleased to see these decreases, especially after increases (in 2016),” Police Chief Danny Bowen wrote in the report review.
Indexed crime rates went up about 14 percent the previous year — including an increase in every violent crime category.
Last year, however, every category of violent crime saw a decrease.
“We continually study this report to look for ways to enhance performance and to evaluate trends,” Bowen said.
This time, they found that the most significant decreases in violent crime came in robbery and aggravated assault. The most significant decreases in non-violent crime came in larceny and liquor law violations.
In addition the percentage of cases considered solved during the year — or the department’s clearance rate — remained about 10 points above the state average.
“As we move into 2018 we are looking forward to providing the citizens of Albemarle with the best customer service that is possible,” Bowen said.
However, while overall crime rates went down in 2017, the year didn’t come without its share of tough cases and statistics either.
The criminal investigations division reported several incidents of gun violence, including shots fired at a woman in a car, shots fired at a home on Inger Street, a bullet wound at a card game and a shoot out between two individuals on Bell Street. (In each of those incidents, arrest warrants were issued.)
However, there was one incident in which a warrant was not issued.
On Aug. 22, APD responded to a shots-fired call on North Seventh Street to find Walter Leak with a gunshot wound. Leak died of his injuries, but there was never enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the person responsible for the killing, officers wrote.
“The investigation continues as we reach out to social meda and a tip hotline for additional clues to follow-up,” the report read.
In addition, sex offenses went up 82 percent in 2017 and the use of heroin continues to rise.
In 2016, APD noted a an uptick in heroin usage, they said, but this year it spiked up another 50 percent — along with increases in opioid overdoses.
“In response to this we have plans to equip our patrol officers with Naloxone (NARCAN) in the event they respond to someone that has overdosed, or in the event an officer is exposed to some substance during an incident,” Bowen said.
Now that DNA analysis is easier to do as well, the department is also going through cold cases to see if new tests can be performed.
They sent off an item from a case in 2001 for DNA collection in 2017, officers reported.
“We are still waiting for the lab to come back with some results that we can run through the DNA database,” the report noted.
The department also plans to continue equipment improvements over the next few years.
In 2017, they invested in new computers for every police vehicle. Next the department would like to look into upgrading body cameras.
“These cameras have been very beneficial in recording evidence and assisting officers,” Bowen said.
Finally, APD is also brainstorming more ways to involve the community in what it’s doing.
From new “On the Table” forum discussions, to Citizen Academies to teach what police do, to the department’s big social event Community Night Out, the department is planning to expand existing activities.
But it is also means changing things up, too.
“In this day and time, when you hear of social media you think of Facebook, but with today’s generation, Instagram and YouTube have become the choice of communication,” the department’s report noted.
In 2017, that led APD to start both Instagram and YouTube accounts for posting new information.
“Wanted posters, law enforcement accomplishments and public notices were all posted on social media in 2017 with favorable outcomes,” the report stated.
To view the report, contact the Albemarle Police Department at (704) 984-9500.

Contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24, or shannon@stanlynewspress.com.