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So far, 2013 has been homicide-free in Hanover.
By this time last year, there had been five killings in Hanover County. All but one occurred over a brief timespan in January.
The last time more than five killings occurred in Hanover was in 1993 when the county had a total of seven, according to data from the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.
Seven months into 2013 there have been no murders or “non-negligent” manslaughters.
“We like to think of [homicides] as a rarity,” said Col. David R. Hines, Hanover sheriff.
Rates of homicides are down, but overall criminal offenses committed during the first half of 2013 show a 6.7 percent increase over the same January-through-June timeframe in 2012. When calculated, about 90 more offenses occurred this year.
These results come from a recent analysis of data provided by the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office covering the first six months of 2012 and 2013.
When data from the two time periods are compared, they reveal increases in several key areas. For example, aggravated assault cases are up 125 percent. All told, 2013 saw 36 such cases from January through June while 2012 saw16 aggravated assault offenses during the same six months.
Hines said a portion of those assault cases are domestic-related, which are often more difficult to prevent because they occur inside residents’ homes.
Many of the killings last year were also domestic-related, he added.
“We can make the arrest, but it doesn’t solve the problem sometimes,” Hines said. “The problem is deeper than just the assault that’s sometimes just the symptom.”
The Sheriff’s Office hopes to combat violent domestic-related crimes by partnering with social services and a domestic violence task force to provide help to the individuals involved, he said.
Data provided by the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office also shows increases in other areas of crime. Kidnappings and abductions have gone up 75 percent, for example.
The number of fraud-related cases, including credit card fraud or impersonation of another individual, increased about 68 percent from 82 incidents last year to 138 halfway through 2013. Lt. Chris R. Whitley attributed the increase to the poor economy.
The data also shows a decrease in reported crime in some areas. At the end of June, arson was down by 50 percent in comparison to last year’s rate, which reflected a summer series of fires in King’s Charter. A 19-year-old Atlee High School graduate recently pleaded guilty to starting those blazes.
In addition, cases of breaking and entering are down 30 percent. Data shows that 2012 saw 15 more burglaries from January through June than 2013.
Robberies are also slightly down in Hanover. This year, there were seven robbery cases through the end of June. During the same time period in 2012, there had been eight en route to an end-of-the-year total of 18.
However, the type of robbery is changing in Hanover. “Person robberies,” which are often drug-related, are occurring more, which Hines said is unusual for Hanover.
“[They] are a preventable crime but you have to be there to prevent it by high visibility and quick apprehensions,” Hines said.
The Sheriff’s Office has a theory for crime prevention. First and foremost the Sheriff’s Office tries to make sure crimes do not occur, but if that’s not possible, then the immediate next move is to solve the case quickly to prevent other crimes by the same perpetrator, Hines said.
In hopes of preventing future crimes more efficiently, the Sheriff’s Office has partnered with staff at the University of California Los Angeles and the University of Virginia to create a new approach called “Predictive Policing,” which forecasts how and where to position police forces depending on future crime predictions.
It’s still a work-in-progress. Deputy Terry Sullivan is constructing a fairly new approach that uses a “weather model” to identify where police forces will be needed and where crime might occur in the future, Hines said.
The Sheriff’s Office said the new model will be up and ready for use in the fall.
Part of the method involves maps generated using the county’s Geographic Information System to identify and show specific locations with high residential density, or “hot spots,” where crime may occur.
For instance, Hines said, if a storm comes through, Sheriff’s Office staff could use the new model to decide where officers would be needed based on crimes committed or other incidents that occurred during previous storms.
One major hot spot for crime in the county is Mechanicsville, because more people reside there compared to locations such as Ashland or outlying rural areas. The Sheriff’s Office takes this in consideration when sending officers out into the field.
In an attempt to prevent crimes before the fact, Hines said his office stays involved with community-based crime prevention programs such as Crime and Business Watch and working closely with the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.
Hines said those relationships are to thank for the department’s 67 percent clearance rate – the percentage of cases solved by arrests or other means.
“A great part of our success is our partnership with the community,” Hines said.