In just a year, statistics show that a number of crimes in Lake Township have dramatically increased, but that doesn't necessarily mean more crimes are being committed, Police Chief Mark Hummer said.
Police department officials recently presented township trustees with year-end crime statistics for 2005 and compared them to similar crimes committed in 2004. They described some results as "surprising."
Overall, the department noted a 57 percent increase in documented activity.
Domestic violence crimes have soared 227 percent, with 29 reported in 2004 and 95 reported last year. Drug offenses almost reached that level after climbing 226 percent from 26 in 2004 to 85 last year.
Chief Hummer said it was the domestic violence reports that surprised him most but added that he attributes the jump in calls not to an increase in incidents but an increase in the number being reported.
"That increase is just horrible to see, but there's not a stigma that there used to be for a victim to call for help," he said. "It used to be a hidden crime, and I think because of public awareness, people are more apt to call the police if they're a victim of domestic violence."
But because the numbers are high, the chief said he plans to explore a way for several officers to get specialized training on the subject because he's hoping more public awareness will get the numbers down.
As for drug offenses, Chief Hummer said he correlates the spike directly with the department's stepped-up traffic enforcement. In addition, the chief hired a part-time police officer last week and is considering hiring one or two more to free some full-time officers to take proactive steps in undercover work to concentrate on drug offenses. The department has 15 full-time officers and three who work part-time.
Crimes that have increased more than 100 percent from 2004 to 2005 include not wearing a seatbelt, traffic citations, menacing, burglary, and speeding citations.
Detective Mick Lento said the traffic crimes are related to the increase in traffic enforcement, especially on State Route 795, which has experienced more traffic volume because it's a cut-through for many not wanting to deal with the construction hassles on I-280.
Detective Lento said his surprise came with the number of burglaries last year - 31 - up from 13 in 2004.
"In the last two to three months of the year, we had 14 burglaries, which is an extreme amount," he said, adding that officers suspect that the burglaries were related. "The paperwork was overwhelming."
Other crimes that have increased slightly include breaking and entering, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, criminal trespassing, assault, felonious assault, criminal mischief, vandalism, and unruly juveniles.
Chief Hummer said the addition of School Resource Officer Steve Poiry at Lake Local Schools most likely contributed to the increase especially in unruly juveniles because "he's engaged and it's reported. His presence in the schools is helping."
Crimes that have decreased slightly include arson and open containers in vehicles.
The chief said a surprising decrease was that thefts were down from 641 in 2004 to 593 last year. He said he almost expected an increase because of the number of fuel thefts that happened when prices skyrocketed above $2 a gallon last year.
There were no murders or homicides in either 2004 or 2005, and the number of attempted murders remained static at one.
"I'm really proud of the officers because of their enforcement," Chief Hummer said. "We're busier and the guys are doing a good job. The numbers might scare people, but they shouldn't because our knowledge of the activity is up."