Commentary: KSP looking at in depth crime

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By The Staff

For nearly a quarter-century, the Kentucky State Police has taken an annual in-depth look at crime in the Commonwealth, drawing from a database that brings together reports compiled by state and local law enforcement.

Each crime worthy of the police’s attention serves as a dot that helps to paint a pretty good picture of the year faced by our 10,000 officers and their civilian support.  Historically, these reports show some definite trends, indicating where we are doing well and where we could do better.

That can easily be seen, for example, by comparing 2009’s report with 1998’s.  When you look at just the serious crimes – from murder, rape and arson down to burglaries and shoplifting – you can see a noticeable decline, even with the increase in population.

Our murder rate, meanwhile, dropped by a fourth during that time, and auto theft declined by a third.  Rapes, unfortunately, went up, with 460 more reported last year than a dozen years ago.

Robberies, though, have stayed fairly consistent.  Last year, these amounted to almost $3 million worth of goods taken by force, including $286,000 from our banks, each of which lost $3,500 on average.

While most robberies took place out in the community, most burglaries happened where we live.  Interestingly, more than twice as much was taken from homes during the daytime last year than at night.

One of the bright spots in comparing the reports from 1998 to 2009 is that DUIs have declined significantly.  There were 5,600 fewer arrests last year, indicating our efforts to keep intoxicated people from getting behind the wheel are working.  To further that goal, my colleagues in the General Assembly and I modified the DUI law this year to include any illegal, mind-altering substance.  Now, if a driver has a measurable amount found in a blood test, he or she can be charged.

Although our DUIs are down, drug arrests continue to sky-rocket, more than doubling in less than a dozen years.  There were 25,500 in 1998 but almost 62,000 last year.

In breaking the crimes down statistically, we can see things that might otherwise not be readily apparent.  October, for example, had the highest number of rapes last year by far.  There were more 16-year-olds arrested for burglary and auto theft than 17-year-olds in 2009, and those 25 to 29 are the ones most likely to be charged with a serious crime when compared to other age groups.

When it comes to solving crimes, a little more than half of those involving violence were solved, while the rate was less than a fourth for property crimes.  There were also more than 1,600 officers assaulted, but none, fortunately, were killed in the line of duty in 2009.

In addition to compiling this information, the Kentucky State Police reports take a closer look at other issues that also deal with our safety.  Last year, for example, there were nearly 4,000 women and children – and a handful of men – who used our 15 state-funded domestic violence shelters.  There were more than 26,000 petitions seeking domestic violence orders.

There were also 71 hate crimes last year, with most involving intimidating acts like graffiti rather than violence.  More than half of those crimes reported were due to race and a little less than a fifth were due to sexual orientation.

These annual reports offer a lot of information to digest, but they give us a clear idea of what it is faced by those who put on the uniform for our protection.  When it comes to serious crimes, they’ve got about four minutes between calls, each and every day.  Without them doing their jobs, none of us could do ours.

As always, I am interested in knowing what you think, either about this issue or any other affecting state government.  I can be reached by writing to Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.

You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181.  For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.

I hope to hear from you soon.

State Representative Rick Rand