Assaults, Larcenies on the Increase

Assaults, Larcenies on the Increase

Loudoun's growth has brought more residences, businesses and places to go.

Growth has also brought more crime, said Sheriff Stephen Simpson at a community club meeting last week.

Assaults, burglaries, armed robberies, strong arm robberies that involve a threat of physical force, and larcenies from automobiles and homes are on the rise, while construction site thefts continue at the same level, Simpson said about some of Loudoun's top crimes for 2002.

Aggravated and simple assaults increased from 1,007 incidents in 1999 to 1,138 incidents in 2001, while larcenies climbed from 2,428 incidents in 1999 to 2,689 incidents in 2001.

"The calls for service are up. The response times are up," Simpson said.

Some of the service calls include juvenile crimes, which are showing an increase in offenses involving violence, drugs and alcohol, Simpson said. "Juvenile crime is a big problem," he said. "The more violent crimes are being perpetuated by younger people. It seems to be a trend."

The Juvenile Court Service Unit in Leesburg noted an increase in alcohol and weapon-related offenses in the past year but will not have the annual statistical report for fiscal year 2002 until July or August.

"We're trending downward in our age of our offenders. That's been a trend for the last couple of years. And we're trending toward more female offenders," said Mark Crowley, director of the Juvenile Court Service Unit, the probationary service arm of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

The percentage of juvenile female offenders increased from about 5 percent 25 years ago to nearly 20 percent this year, Crowley said. The crimes committed by female juveniles trend toward more self-destructive crimes, such as alcohol and drug abuse and larcenies, he said.

TO ADDRESS the increases in both juvenile and adult crimes, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office requested 148 new positions but received funding for 13 positions through the county's fiscal year 2003 budget. Last year, the sheriff's office received half of the sheriff's requested positions.

"Apparently, the Board [of Supervisors] doesn't have public safety as high on the priority list as I think they should, not just as chief law enforcement officer but as a resident as well," Simpson said.

"That's nonsense," said Supervisor Mark Herring (D-Leesburg). "We significantly increased funding for public safety from when we came into office."

The Board of Supervisors boosted funding by 95 percent from $12 million in fiscal year 2000 to $23.5 million in fiscal year 2003, increasing staff positions from 321 to 444 during the same time period, Herring said. "It's irresponsible for the sheriff to say that the board does not have a commitment to public safety. He needs to look at the General Assembly," he said.

The state's funding for the sheriff's office, which was $5.5 million in fiscal year 2000 and $5.8 million in fiscal year 2003, did not match the cost of growth and inflation, Herring said.

This year, the sheriff's office is funding 12 deputies per shift to cover 517 square miles in the county and an estimated population of 185,000 people. The sheriff's office sought to add 54 new deputy positions to obtain the national average of one deputy per 1,000 population and instead received five deputy patrol positions, Simpson said. The sheriff's office operates with .075 deputies per 1,000, though the county's standard is .08 deputies per 1,000, he said.

CHAIRMAN SCOTT YORK (R-At Large) disagreed. "We have kept up with our ratio of deputies per 1,000, so we have not gone below that. Public safety is very important to the board," he said, adding that Simpson should address whether or not he is managing the staff and available manpower.

"With all the deputies he has, why aren't we seeing as many on the street?" York said. "We have not veered from the ratio, and have actually been criticized [for] the overwhelming increase of the budget for putting local law enforcement and fire and rescue in the forefront, as well as for the funding of schools."

Simpson said the sheriff's office did not receive the funding it needed to be proactive and may have to cut proactive programs. "We're losing ground. We're going backwards instead of forward, and that's dangerous," he said.

"It's almost impossible to be proactive. ... We tried to do innovative things. Those usually get put on the back burner because of the normal everyday caseload coming in," said Major Larry Beardsley, commander of the Criminal Investigations Division. "The caseload's doubling, and it's not stopping."

The Criminal Investigations Division requested 11 investigators for fiscal year 2003 and received two new positions. "Just about every case we take in investigation there has been an increase in, most notably financial crimes," Beardsley said.

The number of financial crime cases, such as credit card fraud and identity theft, almost tripled from last year, while property crime cases doubled. "It's hitting us harder because of the immense growth we're going through," Beardsley said.

The division handled an average of 2,000 cases a year for the past two years, covering crimes against persons, crimes against property, financial crimes and computer-related crimes. Staff worked 136 percent above the overtime budget, working an average caseload of 224 cases this past year. "We wanted to keep the average number of cases per investigator to 100 to 105 overall," Beardsley said.

THE NEW POSITIONS for the sheriff's office will be funded beginning July 1, including five patrol deputies, two investigators, four court officers and two school resource officers. The new hirees will not be able to attend a training academy until January 2003, since the academy is offered that month and again in June.

"These are some of the things we tried to address in this year's budget to get more resources," Simpson said. "Everything we do is increasing. ... I have some public safety concerns because of that."