The Fairfield Police Department has released crime statistics for 2018.
The data reveal a sudden and steep decline in reports of burglary and theft, and that’s put a smile on the face of Fairfield Police Chief David Thomas.
“Overall, we were very pleased that crime on average was down, especially the ones that cause a lot of pain and suffering like burglaries, theft and vandalism,” he said. “In fact, burglaries were way down. It’s very frustrating to have your house broken into.”
From 2009-2017, the number of thefts reported in Fairfield was about 220 per year, reaching as high as 252 in 2014. For whatever reason, the number of thefts plummeted to 85 in 2018, less than half the previous low of 203 set in 2011.
Burglaries experienced a similarly precipitous decline. Their number was frequently over 100 before 2018, reaching a high of 170 in 2013 and remaining above 100 from 2015-2017. Just like thefts, the number of burglaries nose-dived to just 21 last year.
Den of thieves
How did that happen? Chief Thomas said there are a number of possibilities. One is that the thieves and burglars of yesteryear gave up a life of crime.
“Or they’re in jail,” Thomas added. “We joke that the burglars have to get it right every time. Sooner or later, they will slip up and we’ll catch them.”
Thomas said thefts and burglaries are often perpetrated by a group of people.
“Usually, three or four get together to do car burglaries,” he said. “It seems like people won’t do it alone, but being in a group allows them to feed off each other. Drugs or alcohol are often involved. They’re committing the burglaries to get money for drugs. That’s their common interest.”
Thomas said burglary rings are often broken when one of the members is caught, who then divulges information about their co-conspirators.
“When we catch one, we take three or four down with them,” he said. “Thank goodness they’re not very organized.”
Vandalism is on a notable decline as well. From a high of 103 cases in 2012, the number has trended down and in 2018 reached its lowest point in 10 years with just 56 cases.
With fewer crimes being committed, fewer people have been arrested. The police department registered 433 arrests in 2018, down from the high of 611 in 2014 and the lowest in at least the last decade. The number of investigations was also at its lowest level since 2009 with only 674, down from a high of 815 in 2014.
Thomas said that the reduction in investigations has allowed officers to spend more time on patrol and perform what he calls “pro-active law enforcement.” This led to an uptick in charges stemming from controlled substances and driving without a license. In fact, reports of controlled substances numbered 82 in 2018, the highest since the data began being tracked in 2009.
Establishing trend lines for assaults is harder since the data have gone up and down in the past 10 years. Assaults are trending down from a high of 77 in 2009, and last year numbered just 41. Domestic assaults have jumped between the high teens to the mid-30s, and last year numbered 29. Sexual assaults average 11 per year, and last year there were 13 cases of them.
Operating while intoxicated cases experienced a steep drop a few years ago and have remained low. After being in the 40s and even as high as 59 in 2011, cases of OWI dropped to 19 in 2015 and have not risen above 20 since then.
Eluding law enforcement, a rare crime that happens about three times a year, was unexpectedly high in 2018 when there were 10 cases.
Calls for service
The number of calls for service the police receive on an annual basis is just under 10,500. The high was 12,031 in 2015. Last year the number was 10,573.
“We get about 40-50 phone calls a day, and not all of them rise to a ‘call for service,’” Thomas explained.
Thomas said a call for service means a resident is requesting the police to respond to an incident, such as reporting a crime, accident, medical emergency, or to investigate something suspicious.
Thomas added that his day shift and night shift crews tend to perform different tasks based on what’s asked of them at that particular time. For instance, he mentioned that a large share of crimes are committed at night, so the night shift deals more directly with criminals. When the day shift officers come in, they take reports from the crimes that occurred the night before.
“The night shift deals with a different population,” he said.
Traffic stops and citations
Traffic stops and citations have gone up and down in the past 10 years, but are noticeably lower than they were just a few years ago. Since 2015, traffic stops declined from 2,431 to 1,607 in 2018. Citations, meanwhile, also fell considerably from 1,078 in 2015 to 477 last year.
Traffic accidents have averaged 222 per year in the past decade, and were the highest they’ve been last year when they reached 261, up nearly 100 from a low of 163 in 2014.