Pubdate: Tue, 25 Sep 2007
Source: Huntsville Times (AL)
Copyright: 2007 The Huntsville Times


FBI's Report Shows '06 Violent Crime Also Soared In City

Huntsville Public Safety Director Rex Reynolds said Monday that the 
city's increase in robberies last year, a 23 percent jump from 2005, 
could be a direct result of the methamphetamine problem facing North Alabama.

The number of robberies in Huntsville increased from 500 in 2005 to 
617 in 2006, according to the FBI's 2006 Crime in the United States 
report released Monday. Total violent crime was up nearly 18 percent citywide.

Any increase in violent crime is alarming, said Reynolds, but the 
increase in daytime robberies has the police department on its toes.

"Historically, you see a lot of armed robberies during the night, but 
we're seeing them throughout the day," he said. "I think that's a 
reflection of the effect of methamphetamine on people.

"Some of these people don't know the difference between 8 in the 
morning and 8 at night."

Many of the robberies in 2006 occurred near neighborhood drug houses, 
said Reynolds. The Huntsville-Madison County Strategic Counterdrug 
(STAC) Team arrested 471 adults and 39 juveniles in 2006 on 
drug-related charges, according to numbers from the police department.

"We have increased our manpower in our narcotics unit, specifically 
to target those areas around drug houses," Reynolds said.

The key to decreasing crime in the city is high visibility, he said. 
Huntsville has 401 positions in the police department and, if the 
City Council approves its budget Thursday, the department will have 
407 positions.

The extra personnel are needed, said Reynolds, since violent crime 
appears to be increasing.

According to the FBI's report, 8.6 violent crimes were committed for 
every 1,000 people in Huntsville. Nationally, the violent crime rate 
was 4.7 violent offenses per 1,000 people.

Those crime rates aren't necessarily accurate, said Reynolds, because 
the rate includes crimes committed in the city but aren't adjusted 
for the number of people in town at that time.

"There's a large segment that comes in during work hours," he said. 
"Sometimes, our population can literally double because of the people 
commuting here. Comparing our numbers to population is difficult."

Although the FBI's numbers show a slight decrease in thefts, the 
value of that stolen property is on the rise, said Reynolds.

Copper and other high-dollar thefts from construction sites mean that 
thieves are making off with more cash than in the past. Thieves are 
also targeting vehicles, according to the FBI's numbers. Automobile 
break-ins in Huntsville increased from 1,088 in 2005 to 1,359 in 
2006, a 25 percent increase.

Aggravated assault and forcible rape both increased in 2006, with a 
15.7 percent increase in assaults and a 13.6 percent increase in rapes.

According to the FBI, murder and non-negligent manslaughter decreased 
from 22 incidents in 2005 to 16 in 2006. So far in 2007, there have 
been 11 homicides.

Reynolds said Huntsville is a relatively safe community compared to 
other cities its size, and police officers are doing everything they 
can to curb the increasing crime.

"It's tough from a law enforcement perspective," he said. "It's hard 
to project and prevent violent and sporadic behavior. You're dealing 
with human emotion at unpredictable times."
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