Violent crimes decreased last year in LaGrange, according to the 2013 Department of Public Safety annual report, but burglaries are on the rise, a trend that may increase.
In 2013, the department saw the lowest overall rate of violent crimes in five years, LaGrange Public Safety Chief Louis Dekmar said when he presented the report to LaGrange City Council on Feb. 11. Reported domestic violence and related arrests were a factor, having decreased compared to previous years.
There were four murders in 2013, one more than 2012. Dekmar said most of the 2013 murders were domestic- or drug-and-alcohol-related. There also were five rapes, 47 robberies, 46 aggravated assaults, 350 burglaries, 1,347 larceny cases, and 80 auto thefts reported. According to the report, in 2013, the Criminal Investigations Section generally exceeded the overall national average for clearance rates of these incidents.
Dekmar said one area of concern is the increase of burglaries.
“There is a de-emphasis by the state of keeping people in prison, particularly those involved in property crime,” Dekmar said.
So far in 2014, January already has seen a 30 percent increase in burglaries. Six of the eight burglary suspects arrested last month were on parole or probation for burglary or theft, and 2013 had the second highest burglary rate in five years. Dekmar said he expects those numbers to grow.
Both LaGrange fire and Troup County fire respond to calls as a result of the agencies’ automatic aid agreement. The response time for calls in LaGrange was 5:29 minutes and 7:07 for responses to Troup County.
There were 46,747 service calls made last year with just a little more than 6 percent being actual fires. The majority of these incidents happened between noon and 9 p.m., staying consistent with national trends according to the report. The leading cause for fires was cooking related, consistent with previous years.
Of 205 fire-related incidents, 96.11 percent of property was salvageable with lost value rates at 3.89 percent.
The report outlined new training courses developed during 2013, for the Fire and EMS Training Division to improve and continue education. Total training hours came in at 33,991 which is a significant increase over previous years, with 2012 having 23,503 training hours logged.
LPD responded to 57,083 calls and officers completed 6,205 arrests.
The Office of Professional Standards investigates all complaints made against police department officials. Last year OPS received 67 complaints, and of those 10 were sustained, five were not sustained, 12 were exonerated and one complaint concluded improper conduct. Of the sustained complaints, three officers received punitive suspensions.
In regards to use of force, 58 incidents reported officers’ use of force. Of those incidents, two were found to not be in compliance with policy. Ten officers were reported injured in these confrontations. The annual report estimates that one out of every 106 arrests involve some kind of physical force.
Vehicle pursuits made by the LPD increased by one over 2012, with 13 pursuits reported. All were found to comply with policy. Department personnel were involved in 27 vehicle collisions last year, which increased by six from 2012. Personnel were found at fault in 14 of those 27. No employee injuries were reported.
Officers issued over 10,000 traffic warning citations and 5,018 citations. Unit members responded to 852 crashes with three resulting in a fatality. The fatality rate increased 200 percent from the previous year.
Dekmar said there is an upward trend in accidents with injuries which he attributed to a variety of reasons, one being the lack of seatbelt use. There were 418 accidents with injuries in 2013.
The LPD participated in local organizations and fundraisers throughout the community outlined in this year’s report. The United Way financial campaign raised just shy of $22,000,to which LPD contributed 62 percent of the total, or $13,551. It also was involved with the Blue Santa Program and sponsored one family with four children receiving Christmas gifts.
Many members of the department are involved in a total of 17 different community and professional boards and initiatives and provided assistance to 30 agencies and organizations.
In 2013, Sgt. Bill Brazell was recognized as Firefighter of the Year by the Optimist Club. At the department’s annual awards banquet, several firefighters received service awards. Detective Chris Pritchett was chosen as the department’s Officer of the Year from the Optimist Club.