Nov. 6, 2021 — Despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary, most types of crime are down significantly in the Florence area since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring of 2020, according to data gathered by the Florence Police Department.
Nationwide statistics gathered by Econofact also show significant decreases in most categories of criminal conduct, with overall crime rates dropping 23 percent. This data is reinforced by crime statistics collected and reported to the state by the local police.
Property and violent crimes dropped 20 percent nationally, on average, and have continued to remain lower than anticipated even after the loosening of lock down restrictions and an end to additional unemployment payments. These numbers are reflected in local crime statistics as well.
However, some recent acts of vandalism and a few break-ins at local businesses have caught the attention of the public, prompting clarification about these recent crimes.
Florence Police Commander John Pitcher said, “As you can see from our stats that are reported to the state and feds, our burglaries are down over the last few years. I believe that awareness is up due to social media, which isn’t a bad thing, but it does give the impression that crime is up.”
Statistics provided by the police department show the number of burglaries reported and investigated in 2016 was 49, while only 7 have been reported through the first half of this year. There were 310 thefts reported in 2016, and only 91 reported so far this year. Crimes against families have also dropped from 46 incidents in 2016 to one report so far in 2021.
“Over the years, the trend has been that we have a few people that commit the majority of these types of crimes,” Pitcher said. “We have seen an increase lately of people coming from outside of our area, creating a small crime spree and then moving on. We have made some arrests in a couple of those situations and the suspects tend to hit several different areas.”
In addition, one area which has been reduced lately was drug related crimes — which amounted to 135 in 2016 and only 12 incidents reported so far this year. This major decline is most likely attributed to a 2020 change in state law which eliminates criminal charges filed in many drug related arrests.
One of the reason’s experts give for the decrease in crime nationally is simply the fact that with reduced social mobility there are fewer people moving around, interacting with each other, and more individuals are staying at home, even after restrictions started to be lifted.
Locally, there have been recent social media posts suggesting there have been increases in burglary and other violent crimes in Florence. Some even suggest there is a coordinated effort to target small businesses and unattended homes.
Pitcher does not believe the data gathered supports these observations, as even simple assaults have dropped from 113 in 2016 to 11 so far this year.
While many types of crime have diminished there have been increases nationally which show shootings and homicides are up. This has not been the case locally as there were no murders reported in all of 2020 and none so far this year.
Pitcher wants to assure the community that reports which indicate rising rates of murder and violence are not reflected in the numbers and types of crimes the police department is seeing.
“Our reported violent crime numbers are not up; just like property crimes, we do have them and always have, but there has not been an increase in the numbers,” he said. “The vast majority of our violent crimes are committed by a known suspect to the victim and arrests are made in most, if not all, of those cases, depending on the circumstances.”
Pitcher and the Florence Police Department want the public to know they understand the trauma which victims experience following crime directed at them or their business, and will continue to remain diligent in their efforts to protect residents and their property.
One area which has drawn the attention of the police can be directly attributed to the pandemic. It has to do with the marked increase in deliveries since 2020.
“Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in thefts of packages delivered and left on the porch,” Pitcher said. “We are starting a package protection program where, during the holidays, citizens can have eligible packages delivered to the Florence Police Department and arrange to pick the package up here. This will be available from Nov. 15 to Jan. 16.”
The City of Florence has released additional information about the program at www.ci.florence.or.us/police/florence-police-holiday-package-protection-program-2021.
Pitcher also shared some commonsense advice for those concerned with safeguarding their property and possessions.
“We always have some people that will commit crimes of opportunity, taking advantage of property left out unsecure or unlocked car doors. We encourage everyone to always lock your car doors and secure your property that is easy to walk away with,” Pitcher said. “We do have some people that will steal mail from unsecure mailboxes hoping to find cash or information to steal a victim’s identity, so we encourage locking mailboxes. With businesses, we encourage alarm systems and “good” camera systems. A burglary and large theft at a small business can be devastating and these precautions can help us to possibly identify and catch suspects but also are a good deterrent.”
The Florence Police Auxiliary also offers a Vacation Patrol Program. Open to residents within the City of Florence, this service can be a benefit to those who may not have anyone local to keep an eye on their property when they are gone for prolonged periods of time due to vacation, or other travel necessitating situation.
The primary purpose of this service is to alert the police department that a particular residence will be unoccupied. Requests cannot prevent the commission of a crime, or ensure detection of one that has occurred, but these checks have been shown to act as a deterrent to residential property crime(s), and aid in apprehension of perpetrator(s) should they occur.
All that is required is to fill out an application and submit it to the Florence Police Department dispatch center. Applications are available in person at Florence Justice Center, 900 Greenwood St., or on the city’s Police Department website at www.ci.florence.or.us/police/downloadable-forms under “Downloadable Forms.”
As resources permit, police auxiliary members will perform patrols of the requested property during the specified timeframe.