Crime hits decade low


A Clinton police car covers the back entrance to Butler’s Pharmacy in downtown Clinton, the site of a robbery last summer. There were just 10 robberies in Clinton in all of 2014, a 10-year low. The overall crime rate was similarly the lowest in the last decade.

Crime in Clinton hit a decade low in 2014, a year that saw significant drops in every major crime category — encompassing all property and violent crimes — from the previous year as well as sizable decreases from the 10-year average.

There were 503 total crimes represented a notable decline from the 564 in 2013 as well as the 5-year and 10-year averages of 523 and 575, respectively. The drop in crime was across the board in all violent crimes, including murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults, as well as property crimes, encompassing burglaries, larcenies and motor vehicle thefts.

“This is probably the first time in history that we went down in every crime category reported to the FBI,” said Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley. “That included aggravated assaults, break-ins, thefts, so we’re really pleased. I think a lot of it had to do with the hard work of the patrol and the (Neighborhood Improvement Team) and what they accomplished this year.”

According to the numbers, the 503 crimes in 2014 included 466 property crimes and 37 violent crimes. Of the 466 property crimes, there were 349 larcenies, 103 burglaries and 14 motor vehicle thefts. The 37 violent crimes included 25 aggravated assaults, 10 robberies and two rapes. There were no murders in 2014, just as there were none in 2013.

The 503 incidents last year dipped below the next lowest crime totals in the past decade — 512 incidents in 2010 and 510 in 2012. It was a sizable drop following a spike in 2013 that saw the total crimes in Clinton rise to 564, the most since 2008.

While last year’s numbers reflected a dramatic drop of 11 percent in overall crime in just a year’s time, Tilley said the department takes a comprehensive look at crime by looking at the overall picture — one that spans several years.

“We’re looking at our statistics a little different. We’re looking at 5- and 10-year averages,” the chief pointed out. “It gives us a better picture of our criminal activity.”

One trend the department is seeing is a consistent drop in crime from years past, with a broad difference between the 5-year average of 523 crimes and the 10-year average of 575.

“That’s a significant reduction from 10-year to 5-year,” Tilley stated.

Specifically, the 5-year crime rate average (2010-14) represents a 9 percent overall decline from the 10-year average (2005-14), including a massive 27 percent reduction in violent crimes. From 2010-14, violent crimes averaged 44.6 a year and property crimes averaged 478.4, for a total of 523. From 2005-14, violent crimes averaged 60.8 a year and property crimes averaged 514.6, for a total of 575.4.

The 10-year figure is inflated in large part because of high crime statistics from 2005-08, a period that saw total annual crimes range between 609 and 684.

Tilley said that is a type of trend that the department examines and seeks to improve upon. And the stats show that it has done just that.

“We wanted to look at all factors that are creating crime,” he remarked, “not just arresting an offender and putting them in jail.”

There are a number of factors to which Tilley attributes the drop in crime, chief among them being the constant monitoring and modification of patrol strategies, as well as the 2009 implementation of the Neighborhood Improvement Team, which investigates everything from a rash of break-ins to murders. If additional resources are needed, the six-member team is diverse enough to offer assistance in a number of areas, Tilley attested.

“That team concept has worked extremely well and I think the stats bear it out,” he asserted, lauding all of his officers. “I think all the guys feel a sense of accomplishment when they see their hard work translate into a lower crime rate.”

The officers are getting it done in the field, Tilley said, and they are complemented by crime analysis that is conducted regularly as part of the department’s Records Management System. When the department got the system in 2013, it customized it to Clinton, dividing the city into six zones.

“By segmenting the city into smaller areas we got a better picture of our crime patterns and how we needed to direct our patrols,” said Tilley, who credited administrative assistant Brittany Locklear with coordinating the system, through which police officials log all crimes by type and location. “We’re able to get better data from these systems. That’s how we’re directing the NIT team.”

Those stats are monitored on a daily basis.

“That’s the first thing we pull up in the morning, in order to identify trends,” Tilley pointed out. “It’s been invaluable.”

The department is constantly modifying strategies and patrol patterns in response to the numbers and crime activity in the six zones. Another arm of that will include increased officer training as part of the overall effort, set to start on a 90-day trial period next month.

The overall goal is always to reduce crime, which in turn increases the quality of life in Clinton and the surrounding area.

“Crime is constantly changing,” Tilley said. “We’re trying to get out ahead of that and keep the crime rate low.”

Still, with all the tools at the department’s disposal, Tilley and others know that it comes down to getting out into the neighborhoods and being adept to everything that is happening in the community.

“With all the projects and strategies we have,” the chief said, “it boils down to good old fashioned police work, talking with citizens and building relationships. That’s the best way for us to combat crime.”