Already lower than pre-recession totals, violent crime rates in Garner dropped further in 2013 according to the latest State Bureau of Investigation crime data. Internal reporting indicates a 2014 on pace to yield similar rates.
In a presentation Monday to town council, chief Brandon Zuidema also noted that property crime has remained relatively flat over recent years. He also pointed out increased rates of cases cleared by arrests.
“It’s outstanding news for us, and outstanding news for the community,” Zuidema said.
He credited the work of officers as well as cooperation from local residents and businesses.
Zuidema, who came to Garner in 2009, couldn’t say why Garner saw a stark drop in violent crime from 2008 (107 crimes) to 2009 (62). He noted, though, that violent crime often proved more difficult to prevent than property crime.
“Violent crime tends to be more spur-of-the-moment, and those tend to be more difficult to predict,” Zuidema said.
Garner had 50 violent crimes in 2013; that rate of just under 19 per 10,000 population represents a nearly 25 percent decline. Garner had two murders in 2013, and two rapes. The rest were aggravated assaults and robberies.
The last time Garner had 50 violent crimes or fewer was 1999, when the population (now over 26,000) was just over 18,000.
Property crime, meanwhile, remained fairly flat, declining less than 1 percent. Targeting certain areas with DDACTS (Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety) focuses attention on higher-crime areas. Cooperation with store owners facilitates better rates of catching shoplifters.
“This is a community with 26,000 residents and 63 police officers. We don’t do all that ourselves,” Zuidema said, pointing to neighborhood watch groups, the Garner Police citizens academy, and Garner 101. “It’s a partnership. We don’t just want neighbors to just call when there’s a problem.”
Motor vehicle theft dropped 17 percent and larceny (the most common at 372 per 10,000) slid 1.3 percent. Burglary rose nearly nine percent.
Finding a resolution
Zuidema also reported clearance rates, which mean a case was “cleared” by an arrest, though they do not reflect criminal convictions. Garner police increased clearance rates substantially on reported robberies (from 39 percent to 52 percent), aggravated assaults (43 to 90 percent) and larcenies (38 to 53 percent).
Arrests were made in both 2013 murders. Two suspects from out of state were arrested in September and charged with the July 31 murder of Kyevon Daites outside of the Westchester Apartments across the street from town hall. Winston Lewis was arrested and charged with shooting his girlfriend Latasha R. Pierce in an apartment on Delta Street. Both cases are still pending.
The Nov. 30, 2012, Johnson Street shooting of Latoya McNeil after she brought her son home from basketball remains unsolved. Two men seen fleeing toward Curtiss Street have not been identified. Zuidema said that the department continues to investigate that case and is still generating, following and searching for leads on who killed the single mother and day care worker. Her mother was also shot in the attack.
Zuidema said that case exemplifies a struggle with community relationships often faced by a number of police departments – one he says is more of an exception to the rule in Garner.
“We have not gotten a lot of cooperation in that case,” Zuidema said.
Burglary (23 percent) and motor vehicle theft (15 percent) remained the least likely to result in an arrest. Zuidema said that one arrest could significantly alter those rates, as individuals are often responsible for repeated break-ins and car thefts.
The statistics so far in 2014 indicate similar crime rates as 2013.
DWI arrests are up this year, a trend Zuidema said he hopes continues. The 2013 report shows 117 arrests, a slight increase from 2012. The department is on pace for 149 this year. A new dedicated DWI-specialist officer has made 41 arrests to date.
Alcohol-related crashes dropped from 12 in 2012 to six in 2013. The 2013 figures also reflect a 12 percent decrease in injury-causing traffic crashes. Driver inattention factored into 40 percent of crashes.