Crime rates here were relatively stable over the past year, according police statistics.
In a presentation to town council, police Chief Brandon Zuidema said overall crime decreased by a few incidents and violent crime increased by one incident from 50 to 51 incidents, which was a 2 percent increase; that rate of just under 19.18 per 10,000 population
Violent crimes recorded by the Garner Police Department include rape, murder, robbery and aggravated assault. There was one rape, 27 robberies, 23 assaults and no murders.
Garner had two murders in 2013.
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Aggravated assault and robberies increased by a couple of incidents each.
Property crime also dropped by a few incidents.
Arrests increased by 7 percent. Zuidema said officers now make arrests in about 50 percent of their cases.
There were 44 incidents where force was used 63 times. The difference in figures means different uses of force could have been used in one incident, or two officers could have used force in one incident. Thirty-four incidents involved pointing a firearm, eight involved taser deployment, 15 involved physical force, three involved use of a K-9, three involved accidental or negligent discharge of a weapon.
“We feel its important to track officers who have a negligent discharge,” Chris Clayton, a spokesperson for the department, explained. “Their taser or firearm has been discharged without the intent for it to be discharged. However, absolutely none of those have happened at a scene in a use of force incident. It could have happened at the office or at their home.”
Use of force incidents increased from 2013 to 2014 by 14 incidents.
But the 2014 figure is only a continuation of a trend that has shown those numbers bounce up and down over the last several years.
Compared to the 44 incidents this year, there were 30 incidents in 2013, 36 in 2012, 42 in 2011, and 27 in 2010.
“We investigate every single use of force thoroughly,” Zuidema said during the council meeting. “A supervisor that was not directly involved in the incident investigates that to the standards I have set to make sure we are justified in what we have done, that we are compliant with policy and also that there is no training issue to be identified.”
Zuidema said he’s proud of his staff for always doing the right thing.
“If you look at what has happened in other communities, whether it be Ferguson or Baltimore or New York or other places, unfortunately when there are issues with law enforcement, what we sometimes find the explanation or the justification to be is that ‘well we didn’t break a policy and we didn’t break the law.’”
He said that doesn’t mean it was the right thing or best thing to do. He complimented his department for consistently doing the right thing for the residents and businesses of Garner.
“They are not just doing because they can,” Zuidema said. “They are thinking about it. They are making good decisions, and I hope that our explanation will never be that it was just because it was legal and within policy.”
Of the more than 1,200 crashes the Garner Police Department responded to in 2014, only 189 resulted in injuries and there were no fatalities.
Zuidema said that was the result of seatbelt enforcement and people taking proactive steps to be safer in their cars.
However, 39 percent of the crashes were because drivers were distracted by phones or something else.
DWI arrests have continued to increase since 2008, and reached their peak in the last 10 years. The were 157 DWI arrests, an increase of 34 percent from the year before.
An officer was hired in 2014 to focus on DWI enforcement. He was responsible for a little more than a third of the DWI arrests.