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Jefferson Co. crime rate jumps 19 percent

May 02, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County's crime rate climbed 19.1 percent in 1998 while Berkeley County's rate dropped slightly during the same period, according to the annual Uniform Crime Report released Tuesday.

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Still, Berkeley County has the third-highest crime rate in the state while Jefferson's is ninth-highest.

Jefferson County's crime rate - the number of crimes per 1,000 residents - for 1998 was 23.84, compared to the rate of 20.02 in 1997, the West Virginia State Police Uniform Crime Report states.

The crime categories in the report include murder, rape, robbery, felonious assault, breaking and entering, larceny and car theft.

Berkeley County's crime rate was 40.38 in 1998 compared to the 40.46 rate recorded in 1997, a drop of 0.2 percent, according to the report.

Police in Jefferson County could not name a specific cause for the increase.

A crime spree in a given year could cause the rate to jump, but that typically happens in smaller counties where there are fewer people, said Sgt. S.E. Paugh, who works in the State Police detachment in Jefferson County.

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"There are a lot of factors that could cause that. Obviously, it concerns me," Paugh said.

"Any increase is not good," said Sgt. Michael Corsaro, a State Police spokesman in South Charleston, W.Va.

On the positive side, Jefferson County's crime rate is below the state's, which was 25.28 in 1998, Paugh said.

Jefferson County Sheriff William Senseney and Charles Town Police Chief Mike Aldridge both said the statistical change could be the result of a higher number of officers on the streets - more officers see more crimes.

Both the Sheriff's Department and the Charles Town Police Department have hired more officers.

Charles Town's crime rate rose 14.5 percent to 54.16 during 1998, according to the state crime report. But the rate may not be a "true figure" that represents exactly how much crime there is in town, Aldridge said.

Aldridge released 1999 figures for two crime categories that showed crime was steady or declining.

While there were 34 burglaries in 1998 in Charles Town, there were 15 in 1999, Aldridge said. In 1997, there were nine robberies, but that number dropped to one in 1998 and two in 1999, Aldridge said.

State Police are now putting together the 1999 statewide crime report, Paugh said.

The crime rate in Ranson increased 21.6 percent while it dropped in Harpers Ferry by 5.9 percent and in Shepherdstown by 13 percent, the report said.

The crime rate is based on a select number of crimes police say best represent the level of crime in a community, Paugh said. It is the same format used by the FBI, which collects each state's Uniform Crime Report to compile its national crime report, Paugh said.

The crime rate does not include crimes such as destruction of property, forgery, driving under the influence and misdemeanor assault, Paugh said.

Jefferson County saw increases in felonious assault, breaking and entering, larceny and vehicle theft in 1998. Felonious assault cases increased from 30 to 60 between 1997 and 1998; breaking and entering cases climbed from 153 to 182; larceny cases went up from 528 to 643; and car thefts increased from 44 to 55, the report said.

Total offenses increased 22.8 percent from 776 cases to 953 cases, the report said.

There were two murders, up one from the year before; rapes dropped from four to none and robberies dropped from 16 to 11 during the period, the report said.

In Berkeley County, there were 10 rapes in 1998 compared to four the year before; 31 robberies compared to 26 in 1997; 258 felonious assaults compared to 139 in 1997; 632 burglaries compared to 533 in 1997; and 157 car thefts compared to 147 in 1997, the report said. The county's larceny cases dropped by 94 from 1,788 to 1,694 in 1998, and murders dropped by three, the report said.

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