Crime Down in 2003

Crime Down in 2003

Police statistics show decrease in crime overall, but incidence of rapes increases.

Crime in Arlington fell last year, according to crime statistics released this week by the Arlington Police Department. That meant a drop in violent crimes like homicides and assaults, and in burglaries, stolen cars and petty thefts.

Police heralded the drop in the number of “index crimes,” a category that includes murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, larceny and stolen cars, which dropped by almost a thousand crimes overall. Since 2000, the number of index crimes has fallen by more than 1,100 crimes. The crime rate per 100,000 people has also fallen over the same period, from 3,558 to 2,823.

The drop in rates represents something of a triumph for Police Chief Doug Scott — the annual release of crime rates marked the first such announcement during Scott’s tenure.

Last summer, after he was named chief, replacing former police Chief Ed Flynn, Scott said the county’s crime rate, already low, was somewhat daunting. “It’s kind of a hard standard to walk into.”

Homicides in Arlington remained relatively low, with only three murders in 2003, down from five murders in 2002. Those numbers have remained relatively low in Arlington after a minor surge in murders between the mid-1980s and the mid-90s.

But in the last two years, the incidence of crimes have increased, particularly forcible rapes and assaults. The rate of rapes per 100,000 people doubled between 2000 and 2003.

Police believe the same man committed at least five of those rapes over the course of one month in Ballston. He was not apprehended, but after May 2003, the string of rapes ended.

There were also a series of assaults in Ballston area last fall, which police believed were linked to gang activity.

But those incidents were not cause for alarm in the community, said Ed Parks, president of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association. “It’s not really an issue that gets a lot of attention,” he said. “That’s not to say it’s not an issue of concern. But while there is a decent number [of crimes] in Ballston, there’s also a lot of people.”

With people walking to and from the Metro station, he said, the neighborhood sees enough pedestrian traffic to ease worries. “Women, in particular, tend not to run at night. But there’s always someone walking around, up until late at night.”

Police attributed the drop in stolen cars in Arlington in part to “bait cars,” apparently normal cars left in high theft areas. When someone breaks into the car, it sends a silent alert to police communications, allowing police dispatchers to track the car via satellite, and use a remote system to turn off the car’s engine and lock the doors.

In place in Arlington since February 2002, the bait car program has led to the arrest of 16 people.