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Offenses major and minor saw modest declines in Grand Forks in 2013

Violent crime in Grand Forks was down 4.6 percent last year and property crimes combined with violent crimes were 15 percent below the 10-year average in 2013, according to the police department’s annual report released Wednesday.

Lesser crimes also were down by 6 percent from 2012.

Grand Forks Police Lt. Dwight Love said the report appears to show true declines in actual crimes, not just reports, and he credited new technology as well as a community that doesn’t have tolerance for crime.

While it’s always a question of whether lower numbers measure less enforcement or less crime, Love said he thinks it’s the latter.

“Crime really has decreased over the last few years, which is a testament to the partnerships we have with the community,” he said.  “People in Grand Forks really don’t put up with much and they call us. And that is what makes Grand Forks such a unique community. It’s a great place to raise kids.”

   Based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system, violent crimes tracked by police include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

 Only robbery, with 26 reported incidents, a 30 percent increase from 20 in 2012, showed an increase, and because of the low raw numbers, perhaps isn’t a significant increase. However, it is more than twice the 10-year average of 12.6 and the decade’s highest except for 27 in 2009.

There were no murders last year. There have been seven the past decade.

Rapes were down 18 percent, from 39 in 2012 to 32 last year. Aggravated assaults were down 7 percent to 87.

Serious property crimes were down, except for arson: up 50 percent, from two in 2012 to three last year.

The biggest number of serious crimes comes in larcenies, which the FBI defines as thefts that don’t require a break-in of a structure, as do burglaries. Last year, there were 1,146 larcenies in the city, down 2 percent from 2012. But that total made up 73 percent of the total of serious crimes.

Typical larcenies are stealing bikes, shoplifting and generally stealing unguarded stuff.

There were 199 reports of burglaries last year, down 16 percent from 2012, and 75 auto thefts, down 19 percent.

The total reported serious crimes were 1,568 last year, down 5 percent from 1,654 in 2012. That continues a long-term trend of a 29 percent decrease since 2005, when 2,221 were reported.

Lesser crimes

The serious crimes are a small part, statistically, of what the police do. In 2013, officers responded to 43,247 calls for service, including medical emergencies, lost cats, as well as crimes.

The police track a host of more minor crimes not reported in the FBI system, from drug crimes (284 last year, up 23 percent), domestic disturbances (632, down 3 percent), fraud/forgery (302, up 20 percent), simple assault (327, down 13 percent) and criminal mischief (493, down 29 percent).

“Prescription drugs have become a problem,” Love said.

Marijuana remains a big deal, too, but synthetic drugs that hit the city hard in 2012, killing two teens, “have kind of gone away,” he said.

And despite the upswing last year, over the past decade drug crimes have fallen from as high as 342 offenses to as low as 188 and been nearer 200 in recent years.

Fraud and forgery cases were up 20 percent to 302 last year, even though few try writing bad checks anymore, because “checks are a thing of the past,” Love said.

It’s now mostly about credit card fraud, whether a stolen card or stolen data online. The annual report includes all crimes reported, whether or not any money actually was lost, he said.

Reports of the crime of loud parties totaled 148 last year, down 20 percent from 2012 and the lowest by far for years. There were 516 in 2005.

The total of lesser crimes reported last year was 8,674, down 21 percent from 2005, part of a steady decline.

Fewer tickets

The biggest decline in police actions was in the number of parking tickets issued in the city — from city and UND police as well as other issuing agencies such as the airport, high schools, and street departments. The citations were down 45 percent in 2013 to 8,643, compared with more than 15,000 in 2012. The 10-year average had been near 16,000 parking tickets each year.

Love said last year the police department emphasized “courtesy tickets,” rather than actual citations, engendering good will more than cold cash.

“We’re kinder, friendlier city,” Love said, recounting how glad he was to find the ticket on his windshield one 2013 day was a reminder, not an infraction.

But he predicts parking offenses probably will see a rise back up to normal levels this year.

New technologies helping fight crime include electronic traffic citations, computer-aided crime mapping and a mobile data system.

One new feature the department is just beginning to field test are small video cameras officers will have hooked to their bodies, recording video and audio of police actions.

A few officers begin a pilot project this month and by the end of the year, Love figures most if not all the officers will be using them.