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Published: 6/13/2006

Toledo sees surge in all crime rates

BY TAD VEZNER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

From murder to rape to the simplest larceny, across the board Toledo saw a surge in criminal activity last year - far outpacing the national average as well as crime rates for other U.S. cities of its size, according to FBI data released yesterday.

When comparing 2004 and 2005 crime totals, violent crimes rose 14 percent in Toledo - almost six times the national average - with murder rates topping the category with a 27 percent jump.

Nationally, violent crimes rose 2.5 percent, and there was a 4.8 percent jump in murder rates between 2004 and 2005.

Rapes in Toledo for that time period jumped 23 percent; robbery, 13.5 percent, and aggravated assault, 13.5 percent. Property crimes rose 9 percent, with burglaries topping the category with a 26 percent increase, followed by a 22 percent rise in arson rates.

The rates were far above the average for cities of Toledo's size - those with a population between 250,000 and a half-million. Violent crime rose 2.9 percent, and murder 9.4 percent in cities of Toledo's size.

The number of reported rapes actually dropped nationally by 1.9 percent, or 1.4 percent in cities of Toledo's size. And property crime was down, on average, by 1.6 percent nationally, and 1.1 percent in such midsized cities.

During a news conference yesterday, Toledo Police Chief Jack Smith, who took his job in January, said he could only theorize why crime increased last year. Instead, he wanted to focus on how he would deal with it.

"These numbers, they are what they are. I can't tell you why they are," he said. "If I had the answer to what causes all those problems I'd be somewhere trying to get a [doctoral] degree."

Chief Smith focused on the number of crimes his department has solved, and pulled out his own set of statistics.

He noted that through May of this year, the number of murders had been cut in half - from 14 to 7 - compared with the first five months of 2005 - and 71 percent of them have been solved, compared to a national average of 60.7 percent.

However, rapes were up 26 percent during the same time frame. Toledo police have solved 58 percent of them, compared to a 42 percent national average.

Burglaries were up 34 percent, with 22 percent solved, compared to a 12 percent national average. The department solved 42 percent of its violent crimes from January through May, 2006, compared to 31 percent for the same period last year.

Chief Smith also noted youth crime and organized gangs are problems in Toledo; yesterday's statistics come in the wake of an annual report by the Ohio Supreme Court that noted Lucas County had a 13 percent increase in new juvenile crime cases from 2004 to 2006 - from 5,221 to 5,899.

In March, Chief Smith proposed a parental responsibility ordinance that would charge parents who knowingly overlook gang and criminal activity by their children. The ordinance received a lukewarm reception in City Council, and drew criticism from the Toledo branch of the NAACP.

Joan Coleman, director of the Lucas County Prosecutor Office's victim assistance program, said she has not seen a specific increase in any one category of crime when it comes to victims who come through her office.

But when it comes to causes, she focused primarily on the city's economic bottom line. "I keep saying, it's all about the jobs," she said.

But some crime victims said last year's numbers should be a wake-up call.

"Last year, the major changes in my life have been filled with pain," said Cheryl Boyd, whose only child, 17-year-old Shynerra Grant, was killed by a former boyfriend last summer. Since then, she has railed against the court system that she said was not stringent enough.

But she also focused on the juvenile issue, given the age of her daughter's killer: 18.

"Kids are experiencing and doing things nowadays that a lot of us, we never experienced as adults," she said. "I love Toledo, but there's nothing to offer here. We had summer programs, places to go. So many things have been cut."

The FBI's annual uniform crime report is compiled from information supplied to the agency by 12,485 law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Contact Tad Vezner at:

tvezner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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