• 73°

LPD boasts high crime closure rates

The LaGrange Police Department’s clearance rates on many Part One crimes exceed the national average.

According to statistics provided by the LPD and the FBI’s Unified Crime Report, LaGrange’s clearance rate was above the national average for homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, vehicle theft and larceny.

LPD’s clearance rate is based on arrests made in a case, according to Lt. Dale Strickland. What happens after a suspect is arrested and the charges filed do not affect the rate. He said the case then goes to the district attorney’s office and usually a grand jury, which can decide to move it forward or not. If there is an indictment, and the case makes it to trial, then the jurors have to convict.

“There are so many other things that take place after an arrest is made,” Strickland said. “We don’t consider those in our stats.”

Homicide

In 2019, there were four homicides, and an arrest was made in each case for a 100 percent clearance rate. According to FBI stats, the national average for solving homicides is 62.3 percent.

In March, two LaGrange men were arrested on murder charges for the death of James Ponder in February. According to information from the LPD in March, the two individuals communicated with Ponder about the purchase of a firearm, and then they met to complete the purchase on Troup Street. During the incident, Ponder was shot and killed. According to Assistant District Attorney Jack Winne, both men have been indicted on felony murder charges.

Also, in February, Alazea Carr, 23, was charged with involuntary manslaughter after she told police she was playing with a gun when it went off and struck Quydarius Weldon, 24, in the face. Weldon later died from his injuries. Although this case was not charged as a murder, it was labeled a homicide, and an arrest was made, meaning it counts toward the LPD clearance statistics. Carr has been indicted by a grand jury on involuntary manslaughter.

In December, Tierre Tyrell Williams was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Phenix City on murder charges in LaGrange. Williams was charged with murder for alleged involvement in the shooting of Da’Jai Green, 22, at Racetrac on Lafayette Parkway on Dec. 15. An investigation by the LPD determined that Green and her boyfriend, Deangelo Finley, 21, of Auburn, got into an altercation with Williams at the gas station. Police say Finley robbed Williams by snatching a necklace from him and returned to his vehicle attempting to leave. Police say Williams then shot a firearm into the car’s direction striking Green.

Also, in December, two suspects were arrested on murder charges stemming from another shooting — this time at the Motel 6 on Dec. 18, on Lafayette Parkway. Tony Reynoso, 27, was arrested in Montgomery on Dec. 26, and hours later, Joshua Osterman, 32, turned himself in. Police reports say both men were wanted for the death of Jeffery Flansburg, 31, who was shot and killed following an argument at the hotel.

Strickland said it’s not uncommon for the LPD to solve all its homicide cases in a year, but there are years where cases go unsolved.

“Every year, we do a review to those cases, and we work to try and locate evidence that maybe we didn’t have when the incident occurred,” he said. “Maybe somebody finally steps forward and provides information that leads us to the person who’s responsible.”

Other stats

The LPD also excelled at clearance rates for other Part One crimes, something that Strickland said is a point of pride.

“It’s very important to us,” he said. “We want to make sure that we help folks and hold people responsible for the crimes that they’re committing. That’s our purpose other than working with the community and keeping them safe.”

The LPD reported five rape cases in 2019, closing three of them for a 60 percent clearance rate. The national average is 33.4 percent.

LaGrange police have a clearance rate of 42 percent for robberies; 55 percent for aggravated assaults; 16.76 percent for burglaries; 17.86 percent for vehicle thefts; and 41.55 percent for larceny cases. All of those are above the national average.

Community help

Although the LPD does have a high clearance rate on property crimes such as burglaries, there were still more than 90 cases unsolved in 2019. The LPD reported 112 incidents and closed 20 of them.

Strickland said officers respond to the scene, take photos, process it for evidence such as fingerprints or blood. Then, they canvas the area for witnesses, asking community members if they saw anything.

“We always tell people that if they see something suspicious or unusual, don’t hesitate to call us and let us check it out,” he said. “We’d always rather check it out, and it not be anything then not be called, and a burglar gets away with your TV or whatever else is in the house that they decided they want.”

Strickland said they rely on community members today more than in the past because so many people have surveillance videos in or near their homes.

“I can’t tell you how many times video has played a role in identifying suspects and then even going further in presenting it in court, leading to a conviction,” he said.

However, Strickland said there is a culture throughout the country that keeps witnesses to incidents from talking to police. He said it’s not uncommon for people in the community to not speak up because of fear of retaliation or not wanting to be labeled a “snitch.”

“We try to explain the best we can that their information will not be widely known — just for personal protection or their peace of mind,” he said. “But, we rely on that so heavily. And the only way to get these folks that are responsible for these crimes is for people to stop and say ‘you know what, not in my neighborhood.’”

Strickland said once a reputation gets built up in certain neighborhoods that the people living there will call the cops to report crimes, he believes fewer crimes are committed.

“I think once we are able to get information and quickly make an arrest on the evidence, the word gets around … Maybe folks start to think stealing $100 from a person on the street or robbing a convenience store is not worth going to prison for 25 years,” he said.