Nationwide, the violent and property crimes reported to the FBI declined by 6 percent and 2.7 percent respectively when compared to the 2009 figures. Georgia experienced its own decline in violent crime: 39,072 incidents reported in 2010 versus 42,073 in 2009, a 7 percent decrease.
In Richmond County however, violent crimes rose from 2009 to 2010: 1,039 incidents to 1,084. Homicides, a category law enforcement has long classified as “unpredictable,” also spiked from 26 to 36; aggravated assaults rose from 179 to 273.
Property crimes dipped in Richmond County in some areas, particularly larceny, which went from 8,712 to 8,530. That was offset by an increase in burglaries, which went up from 3,587 in 2009 to 4,222 in 2010.
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office answered the increases by creating a burglary task force, a select group of deputies who patrol a specific area that’s been hit hard by burglars, early this year. That’s led to a year-to-date decrease in burglaries, Sheriff Ronnie Strength said Thursday. The sheriff also credits that type of “aggressive” patrolling and high-visibility policing for leading to a decrease so far in many areas of crime this year.
The drop in crime in Georgia and the U.S. surprised some criminologists who see a link between a sour economy and crime. But Bill Reese, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at Augusta State University, cautions against looking for a definitive answer.
A partial answer is that, demographically, the number of Americans younger than 25 years old has been dropping for years. Reese added that with the recession now entering its third year, those who would have committed crimes based on their circumstances will probably have done so already.
He also cautions against putting too much stock in the Uniform Crime Report, which is notoriously varied in its accuracy because different agencies report crime differently.
“It’s not a measure of criminal activity, but police activity,” Reese said.
The sheriff holds that there is a link between high unemployment and crime based on the people who are coming through his jail. Many of them have never been arrested before and give their desperate situation as a reason for the crime, Strength said.
As for the economists?
“The experts have never spent an hour in a police car,” he said.