Public Safety

Linn County crime stats: Slight uptick in assault, drug crimes in 2018

Overall, little changes over last three years

A Linn County Sheriff’s Office squad car. (file photo)
A Linn County Sheriff’s Office squad car. (file photo)
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Crime statistics in Linn County generally held steady in 2018, with no significant spikes or slides in the number of reported incidents, according to data from the sheriff’s office.

What could be seen as a possible trend, however, is the steady increase in drug violations.

“Narcotics violations continued to climb, but only slightly, going from 264 violations in 2016 to 282 in 2018,” Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner said. “We have deputies assigned to the (U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency) task force, and we are aggressive in enforcing drug laws, and that could account for the increase.”

Gardner said when addressing drug crimes, it is often like dealing with a revolving door, meaning drug offenders — especially those who suffer from addiction — often repeatedly find themselves in handcuffs.

“I think we would probably be served better as a community, and as a nation, if we had more treatment programs available to these folks,” he said. “Because what we find is that without treatment, it’s just going to be a revolving door — we arrest a person for drug offenses, that person goes to jail and serves their time and then they get out and do it all over again because they have no way of breaking that cycle. So, I think we would be better served to increase the number of treatment programs we have available and try to stop that cycle, rather than continue to deal with the revolving door.”

The data showed slight increases in four categories: assault/harassment, extortion/blackmail, drug violations, and possession or distribution of pornographic or obscene material involving minors.

Incidents of assault or harassment and drug violations saw the most significant increases.

Reports of assault and/or harassment jumped from 138 in 2017 to 154 in 2018, but Gardner said such fluctuations are to be expected year to year.

“I don’t know that I would let a one-year increase indicate a trend,” he said. “There could be any number of reasons why we would see an increase from one year to the next. For example, there could have been one or more people who committed one or more of the same offense during the year, and that can sometimes skew the numbers. Regardless of the reasons … we are aggressive in our enforcement of property and personal crimes, and we take our role seriously and make sure that we investigate crimes to the fullest extent that we can.”

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Incidents of extortion or blackmail saw the slightest increase, inching up from no instances in 2017 to one incident in 2018, while crimes involving the possession or distribution of obscene material saw a slightly greater uptick, jumping from three instances in 2017 to seven in 2018.

A majority of the other crime categories saw declines.

Most notably, burglaries dipped to 91 in 2018, a nearly 50 percent decrease from the 166 reported incidents in 2016. There were 116 burglaries reported in 2017.

Linn County Crime Statistics(2016 - 2018)

Case Type201620172018
Burglary 166 116 91
Theft/Fraud/Robbery 259 257 251
Assault/Harassment 137 138 154
Motor vehicle theft 43 41 38
Sexual abuse/Assault 21 34 28
Extortion/Blackmail 1 0 1
Arson/Reckless use of fire or explosives 2 1 0
Kidnap/Abduction 0 0 0
Homicide 1 3 1
Criminal mischief/Vandalism 110 112 111
Drug/Narcotics violations 264 275 282
Pornography/Obscene material 3 3 7
Prostitution 0 0 0
Bribery 0 0 0
Weapon law violations 17 13 3
Gambling offenses 0 0 0
Curfew/Loitering/Vagrancy 0 0 0
Operating while impaired 180 164 150
Public intoxication 25 27 25
Liquor law violations 64 81 69
Trespass 13 8 5

Source: Linn County Sheriff's Office

Gardner said he couldn’t necessarily offer an explanation for the steady decline, but noted arrests in burglary cases could contribute to a toward trend.

“What we find is that many of our burglars don’t just burgle one location” he said. “They typically will burglarize numerous locations — they kind of have a pattern. So when you end up arresting that person or the group of people responsible for one burglary, they can often be tied to others, and those arrests can have a declining effect over the years on the number of incidents we see.

“I do know that we are aggressive in our investigations, and we have had success in our burglary investigations, which have led to numerous arrests over the past three years,” he added.

Another offense that appears to be on a downward trend is intoxicated driving, Gardner said.

According to the data, arrests for driving while under the influence have decreased from 180 in 2016 to 150 in 2018. In 2017, there were 164 arrests for OWI — operating while intoxicated.

“Drunken driving arrests have steadily decreased over the past three years,” the sheriff said. “I’m not sure that’s a trend, but I would hope that it is.”

The sheriff said the steady decline can likely be attributed to a number of factors.

“One of the things that we consider internally about drunken driving arrests is that we have been stretched a little bit thin over the past several years,” he said. “Way back in the day when I was on patrol, we actually had deputies who were responsible traffic and OWI enforcement. We have since done away with that because, honestly I think the public is paying more attention to the drunken driving laws, and now with Uber and Lyft out there it is so convenient to find a ride home when you’ve been drinking.”

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Additionally, Gardner said, impaired driving has become less socially acceptable over the years, which could lead to a change in behavior.

“Back in the ’70s and ’80s when we first started enforcing drunken driving laws, I don’t think people yet understood just how dangerous impaired driving was,” he said. “But I think now there is a social stigma attached to drunk or drugged driving. I think that people are more mindful of that, and I think that is one of the primary reasons why we continue to see those numbers decline — there are literally less people out there who are driving while impaired.”

Incidents of theft, robbery or fraud, and motor vehicle thefts have also seen slight decreases over a three-year period, according to the data.

In 2016 there were 259 incidents of reported theft, robbery or fraud. That number dipped slightly to 257 and again in 2018 to 251, while motor vehicle thefts between 2016 and 2018 dropped from 43 to 41 to 38.

Other crimes that saw slight drops were incidents of sexual abuse or assault, which fell from 34 in 2017 to 28 in 2018, homicides, which dropped from three to one, and weapons violations, which dipped from 13 to three.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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