VSP Report: Violent Crime Decreased, Drug Arrests Increased in 2017

VSP Report: Violent Crime Decreased, Drug Arrests Increased in 2017

Violent crimes decreased but arrests for drug and narcotics violations sharply increase in 2017, according to a comprehensive report released by Virginia State Police released May 23.

Crime in Virginia (vsp.virginia.gov/Crime_in_Virginia.shtm) is the comprehensive annual report compiled by VSP’s Uniform Crime Reporting based on crime reports from participating law enforcement agencies throughout the state. The program was was started in 1994, with the first comprehensive, state-wide report published in 2000.

According to the report, Virginia had a 3.9 percent decrease in violent crime (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) in 2017 as compared to 2016. Nationwide, violent crimes decreased by 0.8 percent.

The number of reported homicides decreased 5.2 percent — from 480 to 455. Victims and offenders tended to be relatively young: 48 percent of homicide victims and 64 percent of offenders were 30 or younger. Seventy-two percent of victims and 86 percent of offenders were male.

The sharpest increase was seen with drug and narcotic arrests, with 15.6 percent more arrests in 2017 compared to 2016. Where type of drug was known, 71 percent of drug arrests were for marijuana — a 20.6 percent increase. Arrests for heroin decreased 3.2 percent and for crack cocaine decreased 3.0%. Arrests increased for powder cocaine (14.2 percent) and amphetamines/methamphetamines (22.7 percent).

Property crime in Virginia, including the offenses of burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft, decreased 2,6 percent. when compared to the previous year. Nationwide, there was a 2.9 percent decrease.

Other findings in the report include:

  • Motor vehicle thefts and attempted thefts increased 3.9 percent compared to the previous year.  Of the 10,223 motor vehicles stolen, 6,438 or 63 percent were recovered. Of all motor vehicles stolen, trucks had the highest frequency of being recovered (73 percent) followed by automobiles (68 percent). Recreational and “other” motor vehicles (motorcycles, mopeds, snowmobiles, etc.) were least likely to be recovered (49 percent, 39 percent respectively). Of all motor vehicles stolen, 43 percent were taken from the residence/home. The reported value of all motor vehicles stolen was about $86 million.
  • Fraud offenses decreased 3.8 percent compared to 2016.
  • Of the 809 arsons and attempted arsons that were reported, nearly half (48.5 percent) reported the location as “residence/home.”  Neither the time of the day nor the day of the week appears to be associated with this offense.
  • Robbery decreased 10 percent. Of the 4,320 robberies and attempted robberies, 42 percent took place between 8 p.m. and midnight. Days of the week showed little variability in terms of the number of robberies that took place although more took place on Friday and Saturday than any other days of the week.
  • Of the known weapons reported for violent crimes, firearms were used in 74.6 percent of homicides and 58.2 percent of robberies. Firearms were used to a lesser extent in the offense of aggravated assault (27.3 percent).
  • There were 202 hate crimes reported in 2017, a 47.4 percent increase. More than half (54 percent) were racially or ethnically motivated. Bias toward religion accounted for 22 percent and sexual orientation 19 percent. The remaining 5 percent reported was attributed to a bias against a victim’s physical or mental disability. Of all reported bias motivated crime, 46 percent was associated with destruction/damage/vandalism of property, while 40.6 percent involved physical assault.

The report employs an Incident Based Reporting method for calculating offenses, thus allowing for greater accuracy. IBR divides crimes into two categories: Group A for serious offenses including violent crimes (murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault), property crimes and drug offenses, and Group B for what are considered less serious offenses such as trespassing, disorderly conduct, bad checks and liquor law violations where an arrest has occurred.

For Group A offenses, between 2016 and 2017, adult arrests increased 4.3 percent. Juvenile arrests for Group A offenses also increased (1.6 percent). For Group B arrests, there was an increase of 1.8 percent for adults while juvenile Group B arrests decreased 9.9 percent. For both Group A and Group B offenses, there were a total of 282,987 arrests in 2017 compared to 276,144 arrests in 2016, representing an overall increase in arrests in Virginia of 2.5 percent.

Per state mandate, the Department of Virginia State Police serves as the primary collector of crime data from participating Virginia state and local police departments and sheriffs’ offices. The data are collected by the Virginia State Police Criminal Justice Information Services Division via a secured internet system. This information is then compiled into Crime in Virginia, an annual report for use by law enforcement, elected officials, media and the general public. These data become the official crime statistics for the Commonwealth and sent to the FBI incorporating them into their annual report, Crime in the United States.

Joseph Dill