By Matt Sabo, firstname.lastname@example.org
GLOUCESTER — A surge in drug-related arrests and larcenies helped drive an increase of 26 percent in the crime rate inGloucester in 2012, according to figures compiled from Virginia State Police annual crime reports.
While the county had a rise in the crime rate, the level of crime is still low relative to the average, according to the crime reports.
Drug crimes were up 56 percent, an increase Sheriff Darrell Warren said is attributed to a crackdown on narcotics trafficking. He assigned two investigators to drug investigations.
The increase in arrests is "because they're doing what I want," Warren said.
The arrests for larcenies are up 34 percent, according to the crime reports. The rise of larcenies and shoplifting are driven by people stealing items to support their drug habits, including for synthetic drugs such as `spice,' Warren said. The stores that sell the synthetic drugs have been hit by burglars multiple times, Warren said.
"We obviously still have a lot of individuals who are addicted to these synthetic drugs," Warren said. "They tell me it's supposed to be a synthetic marijuana, but marijuana is not addicting like `spice.'"
Shoplifting just at Walmart accounts for 14 percent of the total increase in crimes in the county, Warren said. He estimated that Walmart may account for as many as five shoplifters a week. "They're doing a great job up there," Warren said of the loss prevention officers at Walmart.
Crime rates can also be driven up by a relatively few number of people, Warren said. He cited the examples of three suspects who were arrested, released from jail on bond and while out on bond committed additional crimes.
One of the suspects has 11 adult felony arrests since 2010 and was jailed on April 3 on a probation violation, but was released on bond that day. The next day he was arrested in connection with the burglary of a residence.
"Why is this guy out?" Warren said. "We shouldn't have to deal with this."
Fraud-related crimes increased 11 percent in 2012, Warren said. Fraud can be crimes committed online or by telephone or mailings, Warren said.
Simple assaults, such as fighting, were up 12 percent, Warren said. Violent crimes dropped significantly in 2012 compared to the previous year. A murder-suicide counted as two violent crimes, where the previous year had eight.
But five of those crimes classified as murders involved a murder-for-hire plot and no one was actually slain. Becky West was charged and convicted last year of soliciting the murders of five witnesses who could have testified in a criminal case against her brother.
"All of our violent crimes are down, including rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults," Warren said.
The office has the same number of deputies as 13 years ago, but his deputies and investigators are answering 9,000 more calls for service a year, Warren said.
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