Arlington police chief reports 9% drop in crime rate

Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson
Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson Handout photo

The city’s overall crime rate dropped 9 percent last year, falling for the fifth straight year, but Chief Will Johnson said Tuesday that the Police Department isn’t pausing to celebrate.

“We are seeing evidence across the country that a decrease in crime rates alone is not enough to meet the community’s expectations,” he said. “We have to have effective relationships, we have to demonstrate that we care and we have to demonstrate that we are focused on the things that are most important to them.

“Our approach has to be adaptive to the diverse community we serve.”

The crime rate is measured by the number of reported homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, thefts and vehicle thefts per 100,000 residents. Arlington’s rate declined from 16,837 incidents in 2013 to 15,316 in 2013.

The city saw double-digit drops in homicide, robbery and burglary, according to the annual report.

But not all the news was good.

Last year, Arlington police investigated 450 alcohol- and drug-related traffic crashes, more than in 2013, and arrested 1,306 motorists suspected of driving while intoxicated. About 56 percent of the 27 traffic fatalities were linked to some level of intoxication, Johnson said.

“The rate of DWIs in Arlington remained unacceptably high,” Johnson said of the 9 percent increase in drunken driving wrecks.

Police officers gave more than 100 community presentations geared toward preventing drunken driving last year, and the department continues to push state lawmakers to allow sobriety checkpoints, he said.

Crashes overall were also up slightly from the year before, linked largely to driver inattention, following too closely and failing to stay in one traffic lane, he said.

While presenting the City Council with highlights from Arlington’s annual crime report, Johnson also outlined outreach efforts, leadership and sensitivity training initiatives and the department’s core values of procedural justice, which he said were designed to strengthen the public’s trust and promote community involvement to help keep neighborhoods safer.

“By creating a culture of engagement and participating with our government, I think we can continue to chip away at this crime rate and the societal problems that affect our community,” Johnson said.

“Those facts and figures show your leadership and what it’s done for the community,” Mayor Pro Tem Kathryn Wilemon said. “I want to thank not only you but all of the force. We have a professional force here that knows how to do it and what to do. I want to thank you for the training you give and the security we feel in the community knowing that your guys are on the ground.”

Although the council members applauded the 22 percent decrease in burglaries, Johnson said too many residents have been left feeling vulnerable after criminals invaded their businesses and homes.

“There is no permissible level of burglaries that is acceptable. Even one is too much,” Johnson said.

Reported rapes rose from 105 in 2013 to 206 in 2014, but Johnson said the increase was almost completely attributable to a change in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program’s definition of rape.

Before last year, the FBI defined rape solely as a penis penetrating a vagina. The definition did not cover, for example, rapes of men or rapes where a foreign object was used.

“We don’t believe that we have a significant increase in rapes over previous years other than changing the definition,” Johnson said. Within the department, the broader definition of rape was already used, he said.

“However, we know rape is one of the most underreported categories of crime.”

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639

Twitter: @susanschrock