Property crimes decreased last year in Richmond County and are on pace to continue falling this year, but violent crimes are headed in the opposite direction .
According to data from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, there were 603 violent crimes in 2018 compared with 565 in 2017, a 6.7 percent increase. There were 3,993 property crimes in 2018 after 4,151 in 2017, a 3.8 percent decrease. As of May 17, there have been 1,180 property crimes in 2019.
Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton said property crimes tend to have more patterns than violent crimes, so they can be a bit easier to track.
“There is usually more of them, so usually there is more patterns,” he said. “The violent crimes tend to be more random. Usually what you see on property crimes, for example, if you have car break-ins, it’s usually more than one car break-in.”
Clayton said offenders tend to go to different areas and do multiple break-ins or burglaries. According to sheriff’s office data, the most common property crime in Richmond County is larceny auto with 1,932 cases in 2017 and 1,938 in 2018.
“Around the county, probably 50 percent of our larceny is from autos; 50 or 60 percent of those people didn’t lock their vehicles,” Clayton said.
He said they see a similar lack of proactive behavior among people regarding burglaries. There were 1,197 burglaries in the first degree in 2017 and 1,109 in 2018.
One of the biggest challenges the sheriff’s office faces is aggravated assaults with weapons, Clayton said. There were 149 such incidents in 2018 compared with 130 in 2017, according to sheriff’s office data. As of May 17, there have been 92 this year.
“Most of the categories we did pretty good, as far as the different types of robberies and aggravated assaults, but where we have struggled have been aggravated assaults with weapons,” he said. “That is the area that causes us the greatest fits.”
Clayton said the agency has increased patrols throughout the county and plans to do so for the rest of the summer by targeting hot spots identified through data analysis. He feels the number of violent crimes are trending to similar numbers for 2018, but aggravated assaults are expected to increase.
The sheriff’s office is currently working on drug and gang operations that it plans to complete in the near future, Clayton said. He believes around 50 to 60 percent of the shootings involve drug activity, but noted there hasn’t been an increase in drug-related or gang-related violence since he became chief deputy in 2013.
Finding trends and patterns on violent crimes is difficult because of their randomness. Clayton said one commonality of aggravated assaults and homicides is they are situations that have typically escalated.
“They started out as a minor affray, then it started getting into a fight and then it escalated to a homicide,” he said.
There have been 18 homicides so far in 2019, after 32 in 2018 and 30 in 2017. Clayton said the sheriff’s office believes concentrating on reducing assaults and affrays will lead to fewer homicides.
“The sheriff and I believe if you start by reducing the assaults, reducing the aggravated assaults with weapons, you are going to see your homicide numbers go down,” he said.
In comparison to other some other Georgia metro areas, Richmond County fared better and worse. According to data from the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, violent crimes increased by 15.1 percent from 2017 to 2018, while property crimes increased by 7.2 percent. Macon-Bibb County is a consolidated government with an estimated population of 153,095, according to U.S. census data.
In Savannah, property and violent crimes decreased over the past three years. According to data from the Savannah Police Department, there was a 1 percent decrease in violent crimes from 2017 to 2018 and a 9 percent decrease in property crimes in the same time period. According to U.S. census data, Savannah has an estimated population of 145,862.
Clayton said Richmond County is similar to both in some respects, but he feels his department takes more proactive measures to prevent crime.
“We have some really nice areas in Augusta and we have some extremely impoverished areas, same thing with Bibb County and Savannah,” Clayton said. “Wherever you have extreme poverty, it’s just the nature of the beast, you are going to have higher amounts of crime.”
Clayton encourages people to get more involved and call the sheriff’s office before a situation escalates.
“When you see a situation where there is an affray or an argument going on, call us immediately,” he said. “The sooner we can get there, the better chance we have of catching it in a stage where it hasn’t escalated it into a homicide.”