Pubdate: Mon, 02 Feb 2004
Source: Daily Mountain Eagle (Jasper, AL)
Copyright: 2004 Daily Mountain Eagle
Author: Ron Harris


Police: Drugs Blamed For Most Crimes In City

The surge in illegal drug activity in Jasper can be directly blamed for 
about 95 percent of all crimes in the city, Jasper police officials said 
last week.

Jasper Police Chief Bobby Cain said crimes ranging from robbery and theft 
to simple assault can be traced back to illegal drugs. And, unfortunately, 
the trend seems to be growing.

"It doesn't seem to be getting any better," he said.

Figures for all crimes and incidents in the city in 2003 were released last 
week, and the numbers were less than encouraging for law enforcement officials.

"It was a busy year," Cain said.

In 2003, Jasper patrol officers were dispatched 85,398 times, an increase 
of more than 15,000 times over the previous year. Officers logged more than 
797,700 miles in 2003.

More than 1,700 automobile accidents were investigated by officers with the 
Jasper Police Department. Those accidents resulted in 206 injuries and 
three fatalities.

There were 1,908 misdemeanor arrests in the city last year.

There was one homicide reported.

Other statistics from 2003 include:

*almost 100 drug arrests were reported, although those figures may be 
misleading, Cain said, since many more arrests were made by Jasper drug 
agents assigned to the county's narcotics enforcement team.

Late last year, the department ended its association with the county's 
narcotics enforcement team to form its own drug unit.

*72 automobiles were reported stolen, down from 81 in 2002.

*97 incidents of automobiles being broken into were reported.

*Robberies doubled in 2003, increasing from 12 in 2002 to 24 in 2003.

*100 forgeries were reported in 2003, the same figure as the previous year.

*Thefts saw a drastic rise last year, from 221 in 2002 to 957 in 2003. Of 
the 957, 201 were cases of shoplifting.

*11 unexplained deaths were investigated in the city, including suicides.

*12 cases of identity theft were reported.

*12 missing persons were investigated, all proving unfounded.

*Five strong-armed robberies were reported, including one residential 
robbery and one business robbery.

*56 assaults were investigated.

*Perhaps one of the most disturbing figures involved domestic violence, 
where Jasper officers investigated 217 cases.

"Most of those crimes can be attributed to illegal drugs," Cain said.

That played a big role in the department's decision to sever ties with the 
county's narcotics task force to form its own drug unit. Since doing so, 
Jasper drug agents have cracked down on illegal drugs in the city and have 
reported more than 20 arrests since Jan 1.

All the crimes reported were investigated with less than a full staff, Cain 

The department, which normally would include more than 50 officers, is now 
down to 44, including two that work only part-time.

"We're trying to do the same job now that we were doing with a full staff," 
Cain said. "It's tough."

Budget problems can be attributed to some of the problem, but also there's 
a shortage of qualified candidates to become officers, Cain said.

"There is a shortage of qualified, certified police officers in the state," 
he said. "It's a little bit harder to become a police officer now. The 
standards are a little bit higher."

In Jasper, candidates wanting to join the police department undergo 
psychological testing, as well as a drug test and lie detector test.

"We've raised our standards," Cain said, "because police officers should be 
held to a higher standard than the ordinary citizen. The tests we give are 
probably the best thing we ever started doing."
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