“What I think is important is to emphasize that violent crimes — or crimes against people, not property — are down some 53 percent in the last year compared to 2011,” Police Chief Calvin Moss said to a gathering of city residents at a town hall in Deer Run last week.
Moss, who has served as Woodstock’s chief of police for the last year since the retirement of Chief David Bores at the end of 2011, said much of the crime decrease was due to an 80 percent reduction in aggravated assaults, from 63 in 2011 down to 35 last year.
“The numbers, especially in terms of crimes against people, are really very, very low,” he said, noting the city has about 25,000 residents.
Last year, police responded to 35,609 calls for service with an average overall response time of two minutes and 38 seconds from dispatch time to arrival, according to the department.
Moss said many of the aggravated assaults in 2011 were domestic violence cases and his department has seen a decrease in those types of cases.
“I do think part of reason is the seriousness with which the department takes domestic crimes,” he said, adding the department is committed to working with Cherokee County resources, including the district attorney’s victim witness assistance program and the Division of Family & Children’s Services.
Part 1 crimes, a category identified by the FBI that includes homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, auto theft and larceny, were down by 1 percent.
Burglaries were down 5 percent from 64 to 61 reported incidents in 2012 and there was also a decrease seen in larceny from automobile, down 29 percent from 94 to 73 reported incidents in 2012.
The city saw an increase in reports of rape, with five reports from three in 2011 and seven robberies in 2012 compared to six in 2011.
Moss said the city saw a slight increase in property crime, which he said was mostly driven by shoplifting and auto theft.
Shoplifting falls under the “larceny/other,” category, which is up to 456 reports from 415 in 2011, as well as auto theft, with 13 reports in 2012 compared to 12 in the previous year.
“We do have a number of shoplifting challenges here in the city,” Moss said. “We have some businesses who have a very strong commitment to the apprehension approach as opposed to a deterrence approach. As a result, a number of people do get arrested for shoplifting.”
As far as car break-ins, Moss told Deer Run residents that opportunists exist everywhere and he encouraged people to lock their doors at all times and remove valuables from view.
Many of car break-in reports come from local fitness centers, he said.
“People will come and quickly walk through the lot,” he said. “If they see a purse inside and the door’s unlocked, they’ll take the purse.”
Woodstock PD is also opening its doors for the first-ever coordinated effort with Fire Chief Dave Soumas and the city’s fire department for a public safety academy later this month.
Moss said the public safety academy has always been coordinated by his department, but in recent years, the fire department has joined in.
“We’re looking to formalize that and have it jointly presented,” Moss said. “At the end of the day, we are one public safety team.”
The academy runs March 28 through June 13 each Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. Applications are available on the city website and require a background check. The deadline to apply is March 21.
For more information, contact Officer Leigh Ellerbee at (770) 592-6000 ext. 1134 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moss also encouraged residents to follow the Woodstock Police Department on Facebook, Nixle, Twitter and Nation of Neighbors. Anyone can sign up for these alerts via the city website.
If there’s a major traffic incident, Moss said police try to get out the information via social media as quickly as possible.
“We try to push those alerts out as quickly as we can to try and help save our citizens some travel time trying to get to and from home,” he said.
Moss also took time to promote the department’s “see something, say something” campaign to Deer Run residents, where residents are encouraged to report any and all suspicious activity to police.
“We’d rather come out here to find it was just a gardener working around someone’s house or something than find out later on that a home has been burglarized,” he said.
At the City Council retreat, Moss talked with Mayor Donnie Henriques and the council about requesting tag readers, which are cameras mounted inside patrol cars that capture images of the car tags of passing vehicles. Moss said the information is then compared to open source law enforcement databases and each reader can detect tags at a rate of up to 10,000 a minute.
“I can’t tell you how quickly that technology pays for itself in terms of being able to identify people without insurance, identify people whose registration’s been suspended and locate stolen cars,” Moss said.
For example, the police might use the readers to track car break-ins in a local neighborhood by capturing the data and use it to query later on by identifying the date, time and general area a certain vehicle has been in.
Moss said some of his officers were able to test the readers in recent months and he was pleased with the testing outcome.
The cost of the readers is about $18,000 each and Moss said he hopes to purchase two. At the council retreat, Chief Financial Office Robert Porche said the readers offset the cost through fines generated from officer-issued tickets in about six months.