Violent crime down, drug activity, theft from cars up

Posted: February 11, 2014

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Two-year crime trends in the area show a rise in drug activity, a decrease in larceny offenses for some localities and an overall trend toward receding violent crimes.

“Probably the biggest problem we have is thefts from autos,” said Winchester Police Chief Kevin Sanzenbacher.

And the city is not alone in that respect: Berryville Police Chief Neal White, Clarke County Deputy Chief Travis Sumption and Frederick County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lt. Donald Lang all cited the same issue when it comes to crime trends they are noticing.

“It’s frustrating to us because if people would take a second to lock their car doors, you know, our stats would go down significantly,” Sanzenbacher said.

Overall larcenies in Winchester dropped from 1,034 in 2012 to 874 in 2013. The numbers include everything from shoplifting to thefts from buildings and vehicles.

Berryville saw a rise in its larceny numbers. The town went from 44 such offenses in 2012 to 82 in 2013 — with the biggest rise being thefts from motor vehicles. There were 18 reported in 2012 and 40 in 2013.

Clarke County’s overall larceny numbers decreased from 106 in 2012 to 104 in 2013, but thefts from motor vehicles increased from 27 in 2012 to 95 in 2013.

Sumption said a lot of the Sheriff’s Office manpower goes into solving property crime, which seems to be the biggest issue facing the area.

Frederick County statistics for 2012 and 2013 tell a similar story. The overall larceny numbers dropped from 1,199 in 2012 to 1,047 in 2013, but reports of thefts from vehicles increased from 276 in 2012 to 342 in 2013.

Lang said the Sheriff’s Office tries to turn its attention toward educating the public when they see that numbers for something like larcenies from vehicles is on the rise.

Officials from each jurisdiction said a lot of the time property crimes such as thefts from vehicles are drug-related — addicts find crimes of opportunity and use what they steal to sell, pawn or trade for drugs.

“A lot of thefts are related to addiction,” White said. “[Suspects] were doing it to support a [drug] habit.”

Each jurisdiction, with the exception of Clarke County, also reported an increase in drug and narcotic offenses.

Frederick County saw the biggest increase in drug offenses, going from 269 in 2012 to 376 in 2013. Winchester went from 529 in 2012 to 610 in 2013, and Berryville went from seven to 25 in the same time frame.

Clarke County went from 40 reported drug offenses in 2012 to 31 in 2013.

Lang, Sanzenbacher and White said the increase in drug numbers in their respective jurisdictions are a good thing and point to a more proactive force.

“Anytime that we as an agency become aware of a certain issue, we go out and work on that issue by being more proactive,” Lang said, adding that the numbers reflect more arrests.

— Contact Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com