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Despite one of the worst assault cases ever in Shelby County dominating headlines for months, violent crime in Shelby County took a drastic decline in 2011, part of an overall picture of crime that showed slight decreases in many other criminal activities.
Based on statistics provided by the four law enforcement agencies that patrol Shelby County, there were no murders and 99 assaults during the calendar year, an increase of about 6 percent from 2010. There were no murders in 2010 either.
Elizabeth Pulliam, director of Shelby Prevention, said she thinks that increased public awareness of crime could have played a role in the decrease in violent crime.
“It’s odd to have such a dramatic increase in drug-related crimes [28.5 percent] and have violent crime go down,” she said. “We don’t have an answer, but think it could be due in part to people becoming more aware of how to avoid becoming victims of violent crime.
“We have done several workshops in conjunction with the sheriff’s office and the city police department on that topic. Officer [Istvan] Kovacs has given several presentations on Crime Stoppers and neighborhood watch programs, and that is good information for people to help them to avoid becoming victims.”
The biggest criminal incident of the year was the severe beating of Denisse Escareno, a Shelbyville resident found left for dead beside Mount Eden Road on Nov 5.
She had been beaten and ejected from a pickup truck in which she had been riding and was in a coma for months. She now is home with her family in Arizona, but she can’t speak and can move very little.
Mark Bruner of Taylorsville is being held in the Shelby County Detention Center, charged with her beating. He has pled not guilty.
But after the sensation of that situation, Shelby Countians could consider their world remarkably safer. The statistics show:
· Robberies were down by nearly 50 percent, from 39 in 2010 to 19 in 2011.
· Arsons declined about 75 percent, from 21 to 5.
· There was also was drastic decrease in arsons, from 21 in 2010 to 5 last year. There were no murders, compared to 1 in 2010, but assaults were up slightly, from 94 in 2010 to 99 last year.
· Total thefts (excluding car thefts) were down 19 percent, from 689 to 561. There were 41 auto thefts.
· Simpsonville, which does not break down its statistics by time of crime, had a 40 percent increase in felonies, up from 28 to 39.
“With the continued growth of the city of Simpsonville, a sustained increase in the number of felony case reports has been recognized,” Simpsonville Police Chief Chip Minnis wrote in a report analyzing crime in his city. Minnis cited a 39 percent increase in felony theft in 2011, with 39 felonies committed, compared to 28 in 2010.
Although thefts declined, some types are on the rise, law enforcement officials say.
Shelby County Sheriff’s Det. Jason Rice said the popularity of metal-related thefts continued to increase last year, a trend that is spilling over into 2012, with increasing thefts from businesses and even a large embezzlement case at a Bagdad scrap metal business in February.
“I would say that metal thefts are a trend that has been holding steady for at least the past two years and shows no signs of slowing down,” he said.
Metal thefts, though, have shifted slightly, with thieves turning more to copper-related thefts, instead of scrap metal, although that also is remains popular.
The sheriff’s office reported 350 cases of theft last year, not counting auto; Shelbyville P.D. reported 200, and Kentucky State Police reported 11.
Identity theft soaring
Overall theft cases are not broken down into categories, but KSP Det. Luke VanHoose said that identity theft, which includes Internet scams, are definitely on the rise in Post 12, which includes Shelby County.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of identify theft, people stealing pin numbers, and things like that,” he said. “There is a lot of fraud over the Internet. In fact, it’s running rampant.”
VanHoose said he thinks one motivation behind these types of crimes is that it is not as difficult as breaking into a home or some of the more “hands on” types of theft.
“Honestly, I think it’s just easy money,” he said. “Once they get a taste of it, they do it just because they can. If they send out a bulk E-mail to a thousand people, only if three [people] get taken in, that’s a lot of money.”
VanHoose said most people think nothing of giving a server at a restaurant their credit card to pay for a meal, but he said people get ripped off all the time that way.
“Don’t let someone take your credit card out of your sight,” he said. “I’m working a case right now where there was a large party in a restaurant, where everybody paid separately with their credit cards, and all of them got taken.”
He also advises that people who do online banking should check their accounts everyday.
If you do online banking, check on it daily.
“People don’t realize it, but if you run your credit card in the morning, it’s authorized all day,” he said.
Lots of tips
Pat Murphy, president of Crime Stoppers, said that last year, Crime Stoppers paid out more money to people who gave tips on people with warrants out on them than any other type of offense.
“We have had more fugitive tips recently than we have for felony arrests,” he said.
“We get tips from people who know there is a warrant out on somebody, and we pay according to what they [the fugitives] are wanted for.”
Murphy said that despite Crime Stoppers offering the options of texting tips in by phone, that method of reporting tips has never really caught on, something he had hoped would be popular with the younger crowd.
“Calling in and E-Mailing tips are still most popular,” he said. “I think it’s because young people don’t realize that avenue is still open to them and that they can still be anonymous. It tells how to do that on our Web site (www.shelbyclue.com).”
Assaults increasing with some serious cases
Although assaults were only slightly on the rise, with a 6 percent increase from 2010, in 2011, Rice said the Escareno case was one of the most serious assault cases he ever has seen.
“I have to commend our office on that case, because there was zero to go on when we got there,” he said. “I mean, we had a person with no identification, we did not know what happened to her, and there was not a single witness, nothing at all to tell us the story of what took place or who did this.
“Our office was able to put it together, relatively quickly, and make an arrest. I’m pretty proud of that, because we recreated something from nothing, and it was a really serious crime.”
Bruner, 38, was arrested 10 days after that, on Nov. 15, in connection with the crime and charged with first-degree assault, a felony that carries a penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison.