To the untrained eye, seeing that the number of Criminal Cases in Wellington is up significantly this year, compared to this same time last year could be alarming. However, there's more to it than that.
In 2012, between January and February there were 206 Criminal Cases filed by the Wellington Police Department. After those two months in 2013, there are 300 criminal cases.
"Since we only track two kinds of cases [accident, and criminal], 'Criminal Cases' is all-inclusive," said Wellington Police Chief, Tracy Heath. "Not everything that we file under criminal case is actually a reportable offense." The rise in Criminal Cases was noted at the March 19 City Council meeting.
"The question, the way it was presented to me was – is crime on the rise, and if it's not, is there explanation for this increase," Heath said. The Chief began looking over the numbers.
"I notice that our Calls for Service is up, approximately eight percent," Heath explained. "...That call for service can be anything." The WPD does not track the amount of calls that result in a police report being filed, but the Chief contributes the overall raise to a portion of those calls.
Again, with the term 'Criminal Case' being all-inclusive, Heath gave an example of how a call might be handled.
He said if a person calls 911, and says they are being harassed by a neighbor, an officer will be dispatched to investigate.
"And in the officer's mind, if he feels like he needs to document this somehow, then he would document it as a criminal case," Heath explained. "He may title it a miscellaneous investigation or suspicious activity, it may not necessarily amount to criminal charges, he's just simply documenting that in case something should come up down the road." Suspicious Activity reports are up from 22 this time last year to 42 in 2013. There have also been 82 Warning Citations this year, up from 50 in 2012.
Another cause for the amount of overall Criminal Cases is the changes the WPD has made over the last six to eight months, adding a second detective. After former detective John DeFore left the department, the WPD did some reorganization, moving Dan Thompson and Bobby Wilson to detective.
"One thing that we've seen an increase in, because we have two folks in there [as detectives]...we've seen our narcotics investigation go up 100 percent," Heath continued. Found property and burglaries are also up a little compared to this time in 2012.
"There are a large number of variables that drive crime, a majority of which are out of our control," Heath said the amount of property crime is a concern and the WPD is looking at what they can do to prevent such crimes.
Heath did say the communication between the police and the people they serve and protect is vital to the operation.
Page 2 of 2 - "We all play a role, regardless of who we are," Heath said. "We need the help of the community and our citizens to help us do our job...we rely upon our community and citizens to assist us in anyway they can." Back to the numbers, the Chief knows here are several things that have attributed to rise in Wellington Criminal Cases.
"I wouldn't generally say that crime is up," Heath said. "I would say that certainly for the first couple of months, we've been busy."