Police: Better reporting responsible for rise in Janesville violent crime rate
JANESVILLE It’s not that there’s more crime happening, Janesville Police Chief David Moore said, it’s that more crimes are getting reported.
The number of violent crimes reported in Janesville last year increased by 8 percent compared to figures from the year before, police statistics released this week show.
Property crimes saw a smaller increase, up 3 percent in 2012.
The higher violent crime numbers were the result of better policing strategies for domestic violence, exposing assaults that once stayed private, Moore said.
It doesn’t indicate that more crimes are being committed, he said.
“We’re doing our job better with those investigations,” Moore said. “Because it’s the same act, but we’re doing better, you’re ending up with a higher crime rate.”
Overall, Moore said, crime in Janesville has been relatively steady. Although reported violent crimes went up by 8 percent, he said that change reflects just 13 more reports in one year—an increase from 169 to 182.
“We’re dealing with very small numbers overall,” he said.
Domestic violence has been a main driver of violent crime in Janesville and was responsible for both of the city’s homicides in 2012, Moore said.
Police responded to 121 aggravated assaults last year, up from 115 in 2011 and 94 in 2009, according to department statistics.
The rest of the violent crime increase came from robberies (35 reported, up from 32) and rapes (24 reported, compared to 20 in 2011).
Aggravated assaults have been growing consistently over the past five years for two reasons, Moore said.
First, strangulation in 2008 was reclassified from the battery category into more severe aggravated assault.
Second, the department’s domestic violence intervention team, started in 2011, has more aggressively reported and investigated crimes such as strangulation that otherwise might have gone unreported.
As a result, the number of recorded strangulations increased from nine in 2008 to 44 in 2012, accounting for more than one-third of the city’s violent crime, according to police statistics.
Were it not for that increase in reported strangulations, Moore said, violent crime would be much lower.
“Our due diligence on domestic violence is actually causing that number to go up,” he said.
YWCA Rock County Crisis Services Director Ali B. Hiam agreed.
“When we see an increase in domestic violence in a community, it’s usually not indicative that the amount of domestic violence has increased,” Hiam said. “It’s definitely an indicator that there’s more outreach going on, and that people are coming forward with the abuse that’s been going on for a long time.”
The increase in aggravated assaults has also been accompanied by an increase in arrests for those crimes.
There is a “direct correlation” between better accounting of domestic violence statistics and more arrests for aggravated assault, Moore said.
Drugs and politics
As domestic violence impacts Janesville’s violent crime, theft associated with drug abuse and addiction accounted for much of the city’s property crime, Moore said.
Thefts increased slightly, from 1,950 to 2,061, between 2011 and 2012. Those incidents include people stealing electronics out of cars, often using them to get money for drugs, Moore said.
Although burglaries were down compared to 2011, he said those crimes also are associated with addicts.
“The correlation between thefts and drugs is high,” he said.
Moore also had a small stack of incident reports generated from election sign thefts during 2012’s campaign seasons, which he said played a small part in bringing thefts up.
Residents called to report when their signs were taken from their front yards—one for a city councilman, one for Gov. Scott Walker, one for Mitt Romney, Moore listed off.
Each was recorded as a theft.