Austin sees increase in crime rates

Published 7:45 am Wednesday, September 29, 2010

While the number of violent and property crimes committed in Minnesota decreased from 2008 to 2009, Austin has seen an increase in several crime categories over the same period of time.

“In law enforcement, you see waves of crime go up and down over the years,” Police Chief Brian Krueger said. “There’s an influx, people get caught and it stops.”

According to numbers retrieved from the Austin Police Department, the most drastic jump in Austin numbers was in aggravated assaults; there were 189 percent more aggravated assaults in 2009 than in 2008. There was also an 85 percent increase in auto thefts, a 54 percent increase in narcotics, a 7 percent jump in larceny-theft and a 43 percent hike in disorderly conduct.

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According to the FBI’s annual report on crime in the United States, Minnesota saw a 4 percent drop in aggravated assaults, a 7 percent decrease in larceny-theft and a 16 percent drop in auto thefts.

Krueger said the officers in the APD are very proactive, so some of the increased numbers could be attributed to officers actively seeking out crime and people on warrants. However, he said it’s unlikely that all of the numbers could be attributed to that.

“I wouldn’t say my officers have changed and are that much more proactive in one year,” Krueger said. “The crime is here, but we’re just talking about one calendar year.”

Krueger also commented on the steep increase of narcotics arrests.

“Narcotics is definitely a concern that we are working on,” he said. “Detective (David) McKichan has been doing an outstanding job.”

The police chief said officers are trained to recognize the side effects of narcotic use so if a person is acting odd and showing some of the side effects during a routine traffic stop the situation can be investigated further. Krueger said the use of canine units is also to thank for the increase in narcotics arrests.

Austin saw some decline of crime in areas of crime like rape, which dropped by 31 percent, and arson and prostitution, which both fell by 33 percent.

Krueger said he hopes the decline in rape was not caused by victims choosing not to report the crime.

“Rape is a very personal crime and it’s very difficult to talk about,” Krueger said. “There’s a lot that goes into those investigations. The victim has to be strong and be willing to go to court and testify.”

There was a 40 percent increase in DUI arrests in Austin from 2008 to 2009, a 12.5 percent increase in robberies and a 22 percent rise in burglaries. Minnesota as a whole saw a 13 percent drop in robberies and a four percent decrease in burglaries over the same period of time.

“That also goes to show the hard work on the street level (in Austin),” Krueger said.

Although several crimes saw an increase from 2008 to 2009, some of the same crimes saw a decrease over a longer span of time from 2006 to 2009. Robberies fell 47 percent, larceny-theft fell 13 percent and simple assault fell 21 percent from 2006 to 2009.

Narcotics crimes had the largest increase from 2006 to 2009, with a 111.5 percent hike.

The total number of arrests in Austin for 2009 was 1,118 for adults and 528 for juveniles, compared to 1,093 adult arrests and 497 juvenile arrests in 2008.

“Our officers are very proactive in their duties and they’re always looking to stay one step ahead of crime so the city of Austin can stay safe,” Krueger said.