As Augusta nears the end of the worst month for homicides in a decade, another ominous indicator of violent crime is rising.
With a week left in July, aggravated assaults already had surpassed last year's numbers through July by more than 100 incidents. There were 191 incidents the first seven months of last year; there were 294 aggravated assaults as of last Friday. In all of 2009, there were 388 incidents.
If murder is at the top of the ladder of violent crimes, aggravated assaults would be the next rung down. Anyone who is shot, stabbed or severely harmed with another weapon but lives can be classified as the victim of an aggravated assault.
Many aggravated assaults are simply attempted homicides in which the victim survives. That was the case July 13, when, authorities said, 35-year-old Alfonicia Gilbert shot his ex-girlfriend as she sat in her car in the parking lot of the Covidien plant on Marvin Griffin Road. Tiffany Bush, 28, of Girard, Ga., ducked, and the bullet just grazed her head, authorities said. Apparently thinking she was dead, Gilbert shot and killed himself.
The increase in attacks has occurred for several years, and it is alarming, Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry said:
"You could safely say that in the majority of these (cases) you have the potential of a homicide."
More often this month, that potential is becoming reality. The sheriff's office announced last week that it was adding another investigator to work homicides after the month's tally reached eight Wednesday and 20 for the year so far. There were 25 in all of 2009.
Statistics through June show larger increases -- more than 50 cases -- in burglaries, domestic violence and car thefts. There were very slight jumps in rapes, arsons and child abuse cases. Narcotics, forgery, theft, armed and other robberies decreased.