Overall crime down, burglaries up in Polk County

Published 6:05 pm Monday, August 9, 2010

Crime in Polk County was down overall from 2008 to 2009, following a statewide trend, although burglaries increased.

Crime in North Carolina dropped to its lowest level in 25 years last year, State Attorney General Roy Cooper announced recently. The overall crime rate dropped 8.8 percent, while violent crime across the state was down 12.5 percent.

Statistics are compiled by the N.C. Uniform Crime Reporting Program, part of a national effort at gathering statistics administered by the FBI.

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Reports from Polk County law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff as well as Tryon and Columbus police departments, showed a drop from 400 to 377 reported crimes, a 5.75 percent decline. Statistics are kept on murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

The Saluda Police Department does not participate in the program.

The number of violent crimes in Polk County over the past two years remained the same at 29.

The number of rapes increased from one in 2008 to four in 2009, three handled by the Polk County Sheriffs Office and one by the Columbus Police Department.

Robberies increased from two in 2008 to three in 2009, all in Columbus. Aggravated assaults decreased from 26 in 2008 to 22 in 2009, 17 investigated by the Polk County Sheriff, four by the Columbus Police and one by Tryon Police.

No murders have been reported in Polk County since 2006.

Three Polk County Sheriffs deputies were assaulted with hands, fists, or feet in 2009, the first reported assaults on officers in that department since 2005.

Columbus last reported an assault on an officer in 2007, that being with a dangerous weapon. Tryon last reported an assault, with hands, fists or feet, in 2004.

In the category of non-violent crimes, Polk County saw a decrease in total incidents from 371 in 2008 to 348 in 2009.

Larcenies property thefts without the use of force, violence or fraud&bsp; were down from 285 to 230. Of those, 172 were cases for the sheriff, 42 for the Columbus police, and 16 for Tryon police.

However, burglaries the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft &bsp; increased in Polk County from 64 reported in 2008 to 98 in 2009, with 47 of those handled by the sheriff, 37 by Tryon police and 14 by Columbus police.

Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill said breaking and enterings have increased because of the economy, in his opinion.

“There’s no doubt we’re seeing more breaking and enterings and larcenies,” Hill says. “People are stealing more to take items to pawn shops for money.”

Hill says to curtail the increase, he is increasing the number of officers per shift to make sure the county has three or four officers at all times. He says Rutherford County has the highest rate of breaking and enterings and those high numbers are directly related to Rutherford County’s unemployment rate, which is the highest in the immediate area.

“We’re trying to do more community policing and trying to teach the community to be more observant and for residents to write down serial numbers of merchandise so we can find stolen goods,” Hill says. “When it gets this bad, the community is going to have to get more involved.”

Tryon Police Chief Jeff Arrowood agrees that burglaries are up in Tryon. He says the majority of the increase is from repeat offenders. Arrowood agrees that the slow economy has a direct impact on the increase. Tryon had a couple of burglaries at the Tryon Pharmacy recently, which adds to the town’s recent increase.

“I think it’s the economy,” says Arrowood. “A lot of ours is people coming from out of state, particularly from South Carolina being right on the state line.”

He adds that out-of-state offenders create more breaking and entering and larceny offenses in Tryon than local residents do.

Polk motor vehicle thefts decreased from 22 in 2008 to 20 in 2009. Of those, 15 were reported by the sheriff, three by Tryon, and two by Columbus.

For comparison purposes, the state compiles an index of the crime rates by county, based on 100,000 population.

Based on those index rates, neighboring Rutherford County had a rate of violent crime of 241.2, Henderson 162.8 and Polk 157.3. Property crime rates were 3,144 in Rutherford County, 1,974 in Henderson and 1,887 in Polk County.