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Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Many crime rates fall as 911 calls skyrocket

April 6, 2001

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Residents of Lawrence should be sleeping better at night. No huge increases or decreases in crime occurred last year, but more people were quicker to dial 911, according to Lawrence Police Department crime statistics.

Crime analyst John Lewis said that from 1990 to 2000, calls for service any time an officer was dispatched to a crime or incident jumped 81 percent.

In 2000, there were 105,778 such calls.

"We had a big push on 'call us and report anything,'" said Lewis, also a detective. "I think that message is really getting out there, and I think the numbers will keep going up. Lawrence is growing, and there will always be crooks out there."

Police keep track of crimes called Part One felonies, those which they report to the FBI for national crime reports. Part One crimes include homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, vehicle thefts and arsons.

Of those, the largest increase was seen in the arson category. Lewis said those numbers rose because police department recordkeeping on arson was just beginning to match that of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical in 2000.

Fire department records, Lewis said, reported more arsons than police records because police officers aren't specifically intended to investigate fires.

Other increases were seen in vehicle thefts and aggravated assaults 16 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

"We've always had a large number of vehicle thefts," Lewis said, noting that the Kansas University student population helped fuel the number of available vehicles for thieves to take.

"There's a lot of availability, and when we find them, we find some here, some in Topeka, some in Kansas City," he said.

The raw number of burglaries 506 occurred both in homes and of vehicles last year made up one-third of the Part One total, but burglaries actually went down 13 percent.

Another noted decrease occurred in rapes down to 33 last year from 37 in 1999 and 47 in 1998. Lewis said there were two main reasons for the drop.

"We have very few actual stranger rapes, the kind where someone grabs another person off the street," he said.

"Most are acquaintances, and I think that perhaps women are getting a little smarter in picking their acquaintances. And perhaps the suspects are getting a little smarter in realizing they can easily cross that line."

Another major decrease, which doesn't affect Law-rence's crime statistics but instead reflects on the police department's level of activity, came in the area of bar checks.

In 1999, police officers conducted 852 bar checks in Lawrence. That number plummeted to 391 in 2000, a drop Lewis said was wholly attributable to officers' call load.

"Those are the kind of things you do when you have people available," he said. "When you're constantly going from call to call, you don't have time to do those. We'd love to be able to put an officer outside every bar in Lawrence at closing time, but we just don't have the time to do that now."

Bar checks increased, however, more than 50 percent from 1998 to 1999 the result of a concerted effort in 1999 to put officers at bars to curb late-night shenanigans.

"But if you're doing that, you're not doing something else," Lewis said, adding that Lawrence normally has about 15 officers on the streets at any one time. "And these days, we're often too busy to devote officers to that activity."

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