Assaults up, car thefts down in Franklin

Published 9:02 pm Tuesday, March 16, 2021

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Aggravated assaults in Franklin increased 175% in 2020 according to data Police Chief Steve Patterson shared at a March 8 City Council meeting.

Is the coronavirus pandemic responsible for the uptick? Patterson says it’s too early to tell.

“It will take some time before, as a nation, we know how COVID-19 has affected crime rates,” he said.

A Sept. 10, 2020 New England Journal of Medicine article argues school shutdowns and stay-at-home orders — intended to protect the public from widespread infection — may have trapped victims of domestic violence with their abusers. But according to Patterson, the 175% increase in Franklin reflects only 11 incidents — seven more than the four reported in 2019. Of those 11 incidents, only two were domestic-related.

Burglaries in Franklin also rose by 46% according to Patterson’s data. Motor vehicle thefts, on the other hand, fell 37%. Arson is also down to zero from the three incidents reported the previous year, and larcenies fell 5%.

These crimes are among those the U.S. Department of Justice tracks as Part 1 offenses, defined as the most serious and reoccurring across the United States. Other examples of Part 1 offenses include homicides, rapes and robberies — all of which remained level in Franklin with the numbers reported for 2019.

Of the two reported homicides, the one that occurred in the 600 block of Oak Street on Nov. 8 remains an active investigation. The other, which occurred in the 1400 block of South Street Nov. 22, has resulted in a suspect in custody and the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board issuing sanctions against the establishment where it happened.

According to Patterson, in each of the two reported rapes, the victims were suffering from a mental health crisis at the time of the allegations and no charges were able to be obtained due to lack of cooperation or mental status of the victims.

While the 240 reported incidents of larceny represent an overall decline, the term encompasses several categories of crimes, including shoplifting — which rose 72% from 36 in 2019 to 62 in 2020 — and thefts from motor vehicles, which decreased 30% from 63 to 44.

Overall, Part 1 offenses declined roughly 1.3% from 313 incidents in 2019 to 309 in 2020. Quality of life crimes, on the other hand, which the FPD tracks internally, saw increases in drug offenses and weapons law violations.

Drug offenses rose 27% from 62 in 2019 to 79 in 2020. Weapons violations increased 14% from 64 incidents to 73. Drunkenness, however, fell 49% from 37 incidents to 19, and shots fired incidents decreased 17% from 30 incidents to 25.

Driving under the influence arrests increased 18% from 22 to 26, but traffic accidents fell 24% from 142 to 108. Traffic summonses, however, are up 69% from 402 in 2019 to 717 in 2020. Total arrests for all offenses fell 8% from 502 to 462.

According to Patterson, the increases are not necessarily a bad thing, and may reflect proactive patrol work of officers as well as more community involvement.

“With increased staffing and addressing quality of life issues citywide we are hopeful these numbers will increase in 2021,” Patterson said.