In March, the Arlington County Police Department reported an overall Part I crime decrease of 8.22 percent in 2014, which resulted in the lowest crime rate Arlington County has had since 1961. Part I crimes, as defined by the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting system, are homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft.
“The historically low crime rate is a true testament to the partnership among the community and Police Department,” said Arlington County Chief of Police M. Douglas Scott in a press release about the historically-low crime rate.
“We will continue make these partnerships even stronger as it has made our community safer.”
Additionally, Alexandria City has experienced its lowest Part I crime rates since the 1960s over the last three years, despite an increase in Part I crimes from 2012 to 2013. Alexandria City experienced a 9.1 percent decrease in Part I crimes in 2012, an increase of 1.2 percent in 2013 and another decrease, of 0.1 percent in 2014.
But these numbers are not unique to those two municipalities. According to data collected by the News-Press from police departments around the region and the U.S. Census Bureau, Part I crimes have actually decreased all throughout the region over the last decade.
The News-Press analyzed Part I crime data for its study of crime rates over the last decade, but used a different method than the one the Department of Justice and FBI use in calculating the crime rate. That’s because some of the municipalities analyzed, like Falls Church City, don’t have large enough populations to calculate the rate using the Department of Justice and FBI method.
Instead, the News-Press calculated the rate of Part I crimes per 1,000 residents in Falls Church City, Fairfax County, Arlington County and Alexandria City since 2005. In all of the municipalities analyzed, there was an overall decrease in Part I crimes from 2009 – 2014.
Fairfax County, the largest municipality of the four analyzed, had the lowest Part I crime rate per 1,000 residents every year over the last decade. Falls Church City, the smallest municipality, had the highest Part I crime rate in every year from 2005 – 2010. Alexandria City had the highest rate for every year since then.
Falls Church City was the municipality with the largest decrease in Part I crimes over the last decade. From 2013 – 2014, the Falls Church City has only experienced increases in two Part I crime categories – auto theft and larceny. There were four more auto thefts and 12 more larceny offenses in Falls Church City last year than in 2013.
Mary Gavin, Falls Church City’s Chief of Police, said that the City has more occurrences of theft from auto, which qualify as larcenies, than auto theft, but that the strategies for solving and deterring those crimes are similar. “Most of the time when we have an auto theft or a series of thefts from auto, our detectives will coordinate with all other jurisdictions as to see what the trends are,” she said.
“And…the last one that I can remember, when there was a series of thefts from auto, we had some serious ones that were similar to Fairfax County and Arlington County and what we did was we got a mini-task force together to look at the patterns and the times in which they were happening.”
According to Gavin, the task force found that there was a group coming off of the Metro in the middle of the night, coming through the neighborhoods, looking for unlocked cars. She said that they will continue to work with neighboring jurisdictions and educate residents on strategies to prevent auto theft and theft from auto in order to reduce the number of these crimes in the future.
In an e-mail to the News-Press, the City’s police department touted an overall decrease of four percent in the number Part I crimes from 2013 – 2014. “Some of it really has to do with the stability of economy,” Gavin said. “If you look at the Part I offenses, they are violent crimes against people. And with people having purpose and employment and not feeling oppressed there may be less crime.”
Gavin expanded on her larger view on the contributing factors to the decrease in crime in the City.
“It may be that with the unemployment staying pretty steady and/or people getting jobs, some of the crimes may go down, in a bigger picture way,” Gavin said. “And you have a fairly affluent community here, that does not have the same types and rates in some other communities that are right next to us.”