CEDAR RAPIDS — End-of-the-year data shows Cedar Rapids saw a slight increase in violent crimes in 2018, but crime overall in the city continues to go down, police Chief Wayne Jerman said.
“I am encouraged that there continues to be a downward trend over the last decade,” he said. “We’ve also seen a decrease in murders, robberies and burglaries, which I think shows we’re continuing to make progress.”
According to data submitted to the FBI, Cedar Rapids in 2018 saw 368 instances of violent crime — a category that includes murder and non-negligent manslaughter, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault — a slight increase from the 355 cases in 2017.
Despite that one-year uptick, the city’s five-year average for violent crime dipped by 3.16 percent in 2018.
The number of killings dropped from six to three, while aggravated assaults saw a significant jump from 199 to 227.
Included under the aggravated assault category are instances of attempted murder, domestic abuse, armed aggravated assaults and assault on police or firefighters that caused serious injury, all of which saw increases in 2018.
Domestic violence incidents showed the most significant increase, jumping from 66 incidents to 91, accounting for much of the uptick in the assault numbers.
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Jerman called the increase “extremely concerning.” But he noted that higher numbers do not always indicate an increase in incidents.
“We think a lot of the reason for the increase is that victims of domestic violence are becoming more comfortable with calling and talking to us,” he said.
Incidents of attempted murder were also on the rise in 2018, more than doubling from three 2017 to seven in 2018. All were shootings, Jerman said, and five of the seven involved assailants known to the victims.
In most of the incidents, Jerman said, the victims chose to engage in what he called “risky behavior,” which includes drugs and associating with criminals and people with illegal guns.
“And if someone chooses to engage in risky behavior, the likelihood that they will become involved in a violent incident increases,” the chief said.
Sexual assaults saw an increase in 2018 with 32 instances, up four from 28 the previous year.
Armed aggravated assaults rose from 86 to 92, and assaults on police officers or firefighters rose from one to three.
Aggravated assaults were the only incidents in the assault category to see a decrease, dropping from 43 to 34.
But property crime totals saw a decrease, dropping from 5,163 in 2017 to 5,054 last year.
Among the crimes that saw decreases were burglaries, shoplifting and several types of theft.
A breakdown of burglary data showed that burglaries decreased from 888 to 843, while attempted burglaries increase from 53 to 63.
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Additionally, thefts from motor vehicles, shoplifting, thefts from coin-operated machines and all other types of thefts each saw declines.
Thefts from buildings saw the most significant increase, rising from just six reported instances in 2017 to 82 in 2018.
And thefts of motor vehicles saw roughly a 24 percent spike, rising from 357 to 444 incidents.
Jerman said a lot of thefts are crimes of opportunity, where property owners have failed to secure their belongings.
A majority of the vehicles thefts, he said, involved vehicles that were left running and unattended. Similarly, he said, the theft from buildings likely involved belongings left unsecured in easily accessible areas, like a front porch, or belongings that were taken from buildings where a window or a door was left open.
“We live in 2019,” Jerman said. “We no longer live in the '60s or '70s when people could leave their doors and windows unlocked. Much of the theft crimes we see are crimes of opportunity, and all it takes is securing our homes, our vehicles and our belongings to take away those opportunities.”
Despite those upticks, Jerman said he believes that 2018 overall saw some improvements.
“What these numbers tell me is that we live in a safe city overall,” he said. “The numbers are continuing to trend downward, and of course, we want to keep all of our numbers going down and we are going to keep doing what we need to do to accomplish that.”
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