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Boro PD sees fewer calls, less crime
Chief: Staffing key as officer shortage cut from 17 to 2
W Mike Broadhead
Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead

Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead said a “stressed out” society, changes in drug trends, increased staffing and patrol, as well as other factors affected crime statistics in Statesboro last year.

Looking at the numbers, the Statesboro Police Department handled fewer calls in 2018 compared to 2017, but Broadhead said the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

In a report released by SPD community information specialist Madison Warren, police handled 48,852 calls in 2018, down from a 2017 total of 51,637.

However, “This is a statistic I don't like to use very much,” Broadhead said. “It's really a ‘staffing’ number because it represents the total allocation of officers to calls ... so if three officers show up on a call, that gets counted as three ‘calls for service.’" 

A better reflection of the work Statesboro officers perform are "primary calls for service" that represents the number of individual calls, regardless of how much "back-up" was required, he said. For an example, a call to which six officers respond, but only two stay and work, could be reported as six calls for service.

According to the statistics, officers issued slightly more citations last year (5,852, up from 5,473 in 2017) and almost doubled the number of warnings issued (3,984 in 2017, up to 6,544 in 2018.)

“ Probably a better number … is the number of police reports submitted,” he said, “This number would reflect an actual service call that required documentation - a crime or other event for which the officer filed a report.”

In 2018, 7,625 police reports were submitted, compared to 6,976 the year before, he said.

Staffing improvements

Broadhead said the city police department’s past shortage of officers is no longer a pressing issue.

“In April, 2017, we were short 17 officers (out of an authorized strength of 74).  As of today we are short two officers, so we have made great strides in getting our staffing back to more appropriate numbers.”

Even though some of the officers are in training, “this is a significant increase to our numbers and can be reflected in the amount of officers that are actually out on the street or conducting investigations,” he said. “In addition to hiring some great folks, we have also been able to retain some great officers and that has helped the overall mood of the agency. As you can imagine, spreading the workload around more staff allows everyone to share the burden instead of a few handling so much load.”

He believes the increase in staffing is also reflected in the increase in citations and warnings. “More officers are out investigating and initiating more contacts.”

Also, the sharp increase in warnings may be explained in the chief’s efforts to have officers use judgment in making the call to issue a citation or warning.

“I'm not sure why warnings are so elevated, but we have been stressing that the officers need to approach their duties with ‘reasonableness.’ Not everyone needs a ticket for every offense. If the problem can be solved with a warning, then that's the appropriate answer.”


Physical crimes against people

According to the SPD annual report, the number of fights (listed as “affray” in police reports) rose drastically from 12 in 2017 to 22 in 2018.  Aggravated assault cases went from 35 to 44, and total battery cases rose from 108 to 139. There was only one aggravated sexual battery incident reported in 2016, and two last year, according to SPD records.

Broadhead attributed the increase in violence to a possibly “more stressed out” society.

Child cruelty cases increased from a total of 6 to 12, and one report of child abandonment was made last year. Child molestation cases increased from 3 to 5 between 2017 and 2018.

Only two home invasions involving guns were reported last year, and just one the year before. The number of rape cases reported rose from 15 reported in 2017 to 16 in 2018.

Simple assault cases went from 160 to 168, and simple battery reports increased to 320 in 2017, up from 298 the year before. Simple battery attacks against elderly or pregnant victims went from one to four.

The number of loitering or prowling cases doubled from nine to 18. There were two statutory rape cases in 2018 (one in 2017).

Identity fraud cases made a slight fall (139 to 130) and reports of stalking were cut in half (from six to three).

There were three murders reported each year in Statesboro.

Thefts, robberies and burglaries

While the total number of cases involving theft dropped, police saw a marked increase in armed street robberies last year, up to 11 from five incidents involving guns, two involving knives and three listed as “other” weapons.

However, the total number of armed robberies dropped from 33 to 23.  Armed robberies at businesses dropped drastically from 10 to two, and residential armed robberies went from 14 in 2017 to eight last year.

“Overall, robberies were down 24 percent over the previous year,” Broadhead said. “Most importantly, robberies with a firearm were down more than 27 percent.  That's a number that makes me very happy, as aggravated assaults with a firearm were also down significantly, nearly 63 percent. Any time we see a reduction in firearms- related offenses, it's a good day because the lethality quotient goes down when firearms are not part of the incident.” 

The SPD annual report stated total burglaries decreased from 206 in 2017 to 162 last year. However, entering auto cases increased from 209 to 241. Most of the incidents involved “non-forced entry,” meaning in most cases the vehicle was left unlocked.

Robberies by sudden snatch, strong-arm, intimidation, etc. dropped, with the exception of felony theft by conversion (from four to seven). Theft by receiving stolen property, theft by deception, misdemeanor theft by conversion and similar cases decreased.

Theft by taking cases increased overall, but the number of misdemeanor shoplifting cases were down as well from 2017 to 2018. However, felony shoplifting more than doubled (three in 2017, seven in 2018)

Financial transaction card fraud cases showed a slight increase, from 25 to 27 between 2017 and 2018.


Drug cases

In 2018, cocaine sales cases dropped but incidents involving methamphetamine and marijuana, as well as MDMA (Ecstasy) rose from the 2017 totals, according to data from the Statesboro Police.

“Drug trends are hard to keep up with,” Broadhead said.  “We are not seeing cocaine or crack in the kinds of quantities that Statesboro has historically seen.  We have definitely noticed an uptick in MDMA just over the past 4-6 weeks, not sure why.  Someone is obviously supplying this to our community and we are trying to track it back to the source.  Generally though, it’s a definite supply and demand business, so if people are willing to pay for a specific kind of drug, someone will supply it.”

Simple cocaine possession cases actually increased from 19 to 20, but incidents of sale of cocaine plummeted from 12 in 2017 to just one in 2018.  However, misdemeanor marijuana cases jumped from 124 in 2017 to 203 last year, and possession of more than an ounce (with intent to distribute) rose from seven to 18 cases.

There were no MDMA cases reported in 2017, but four handled in 2018, two of which involved distribution. Methamphetamine cases rose from one to four.

Illegal possession and distribution of Schedule I, II, III and IV controlled substances (pain pills, sedatives and other drugs usually prescribed by doctors) fell, as did the number of cases where these drugs were obtained by fraudulent means.

In many cases, drugs and other crimes go hand in hand, he said.

Many incidents listed as armed robberies are actually drug-related home invasions; “which are essentially drug rip-offs,” he said. “A guy will buy drugs in an apartment, then leave and immediately tell his buddies to go in and rob the place.”

Concentrated efforts are being made to combat the problem, he said.

“Our Impact Team has been addressing this problem head-on by trying to eliminate or displace drug dealing out of apartments and near public housing,” he said. “ We look at these kinds of crimes very seriously because the drug dealer is inviting this kind of trouble into densely populated, multi-family housing areas, and placing a lot of innocent people at risk. That's not a situation we take lightly, so we are working these kinds of investigations actively to try to eliminate the threat, or at least minimize it” 

Other calls

While no arson cases were investigated by city police in 2017, there were five last year.

“We know that we had a ‘firebug’ in our community last year, setting small fires,” Broadhead said. “We also had at least one situation where an individual burned a car as part of a domestic situation.  We work these cases alongside our fire department partners and we really appreciate their expertise.  The good news is we deal with very few instances of arson, so one individual can really skew the numbers, statistically speaking.”

Arson cases last year included one residential arson case, three business arson cases and one mobile arson case.

In spite of gun-related armed robberies dropping, other gun violations showed an overall increase. While four cases of carrying concealed weapons were reported in 2017 and the number dropped to one last year other types of firearms calls rose. 

Two people were charged with carrying a gun in a school zone (up from one in 2017) and calls about people illegally firing shots went from six to 15 (with two of those cases involving people being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.) Three of those cases involved shots being near a public highway.

According to the Statesboro Police 2019 annual report, disorderly conduct cases rose from 18 to 29 between 2017 and 2018. Cases of disrupting a public school were cut by more than half – 12 cases in 2017, down to four cases last year.

Domestic dispute calls rose from 147 in 2017 to 171 in 2018, and DUI cases were slightly lower from 157 in 2017 to 151 last year.

Police responded to four calls for begging/soliciting in 2017 and three in 2018. Forgery cases did not change much - from 40 in 2017 to 39 last year. False reports of crimes went from four to five (with one each year being a false report of fire.)

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414. 

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