BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
BOUNTIFUL — Crime in Davis County went down between 2010 and 2011, but police saw an increase in arson.
Often, the crime rates can be attributed to a more mobile population, more businesses and not enough cops to go around, law enforcers say.
Uniform Crime Report numbers are gathered yearly from law enforcement agencies statewide and released by the FBI.
A Clipper analysis of 2010 and 2011 figures show crime in such key areas as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assaults, burglaries and larceny/theft and motor vehicle theft were down. Only arson reports were up.
As a percentage of population, Sunset, at 0.019 percent, came in with the lowest number of violent crimes while Clearfield, with a percentage of 0.176 percent, came in with the highest percentage in the report. In that city, there were 10 forcible rapes, nine robberies and 35 aggravated assaults.
In Layton, there were 28 rapes, 11 robberies and 44 aggravated assaults, but the population there exceeds 68,000.
In Bountiful, with more then 43,000 residents, there were 15 rapes, four robberies and 22 aggravated assaults.
Throughout the county, there were 27 instances of arson.
It’s difficult to determine the factors that contribute to crime rates, Asst. Clearfield Police Chief Mike Stenquist said.
Factors that affect the city include population density and degree of urbanization, a high concentration of youth, residents’ commuting patterns and transient factors, and transportation and economic conditions within the city, according to his experience.
The attitude of residents towards crime and their willingness to report it also plays a role.
Kaysville had the lowest rate of property crime, with a figure of 1.279 percent as a percentage of population.
Centerville had the highest rate, with 2.911 percent as a percentage of population. There were 108 burglaries, 25 auto thefts and five instances of arson.
The biggest portion of Centerville’s figure was in the area of larceny/theft, of which there were 394. Asst.Centerville Police Chief Paul Child attributes the numbers, to a great extent, on increasing numbers of people coming in to the city to shop in the city’s retail area, especially at the big box stores.
“We have a continuous string of people coming into the area, not just from the local area but from outside Davis County and even outside the state,” he said. “Thefts are becoming almost daily, often two to three times a day,” he said.
On the positive side, the increase in thefts being reported isn’t only because the city is experiencing more thefts, but because Centerville police have a good working relationship with the security people at the big box stores, such as Target, Walmart and Kohl’s, he said.
“They know we respond and that we aggressively work to make the arrests and provide closure,” he said. And because they know police are working to stem the tide of thefts, they are more willing to work with authorities, he said.
Centerville Police Chief Neal Worsley agrees.
“(The asset protection people) at the stores know we are aggressively pursuing the thieves, doing reports and making arrests,” he said.
“My sense is that by population we have a lot of retail stores,” Worsley said. “A city of 15,000 typically doesn’t have this many big box stores and other retail,” he said. “I don’t feel the number of big box stores is alarming. It’s just the makeup of the city.”
Stenquist and Child agree their cities could use more police officers.
“It’s a difficult question I don’t have an answer to,” Stenquist said. “Having an officer on every block or street would certainly lower the crime rate, this would be unreasonable and I’m sure not wanted by the citizens.”
“Obviously we would like to have more officers.” Child said. “It would help us be able to handle the (theft) problem better.”
“I do believe we need more officers out on the streets,” Worsley added. When an officer is pulled from the street to do a specific investigation, it makes policing more complicated.
The assistant chief called it a matter of economics. The city council is aware of the need, Worsley said, and he believes when the economy improves, the department may be able to hire an additional officer or two.
In the meantime, both Child and Stenquist say residents can do a lot to protect themselves.
“Some of the steps I can think of would be common sense steps such as locking up and securing property; be aware of their surroundings; don’t flash money around; park in well-lit areas; don’t be alone outdoors at night and report incidents of domestic abuse to police,” Stenquist said.
Child adds that with the holidays coming up, people shouldn’t leave newly purchased gifts out where they are visible. That also goes for purses, cell phones and electronics, which shouldn’t be left visible in a car.
In releasing the figures, the FBI cautions against using the statistics to compare cities, “as they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, state, region or other jurisdiction,” according to its website.