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County sees crime fall

Crime was down in 2008 in Covington County, according to an Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center (ACJIC) release published last week.

The ACJIC, the state agency responsible for gathering and providing critical information for Alabama’s law enforcement and criminal justice community, publishes the “Crime in Alabama” report every year. It features a compilation of offense and arrest data reports by county, municipal, university and state law enforcement agencies throughout state for the previous year.

The report includes statistical information for the violent crimes of homicide, rape, robbery, and assault, and of property crimes including burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft, as well as other information.

“It’s a great way to see where our problem areas are, as well as see areas where we have made significant strides,” Sheriff Dennis Meeks said. “We’re pleased to see the numbers — especially since we are down in all areas except for homicides, and we have no way of controlling that.”

Chief Wilbur Williams of the Andalusia Police Department said, “We will always have instances of crime. We do our best to prevent it, and this (report) gives us a good indication where we are and what we need to do.”

A total of 897 crimes were reported by the Covington County Sheriff’s Office, the Andalusia, Opp, Florala, Gantt, Red Level and Lockhart police departments, as well as the Drug Task Force. Overall, the county saw an 8 percent decrease in crime for 2008.

The CCSO, OPD and FPD each reported a decrease in the number of rapes reported throughout the year. The APD had an increase of five cases — eight were reported in 2008, three in 2007.

Williams said in six of the eight cases reported, each of the attackers were known to their victims and the remaining two cases were instances of consensual sex that fell within the age confines of statutory rape.

“There was no single case where the defendant was not known to the victim,” he said.

Only the APD reported a decrease in the number of robberies reported; the FPD and the CCSO remained steady with one and four reported respectively. Opp showed a 50 percent increase in the number of robberies reported with three robberies recorded.

Assaults were down throughout the county, with the exception of inside Andalusia where 44 assaults were reported — an increase of 14 over 2007.

Burglary reports were up in Andalusia and in Florala and were down throughout the county and in Opp.

The most prevalent crime reported throughout the county was burglary. The CCSO reported 33 cases, a 66 percent decrease from 2007; the APD reported 361, a 20 percent increase from last year; the OPD, 159, a 20 percent decrease, and the FPD, with 43 cases, showed a 23 percent decrease from 2007.

Williams said one of the things his department was the proudest of was its rate in which it solved crimes or clearance rate.

“(We’re) especially (proud) in the burglary category,” Williams said, whose department cleared 31 percent of its 94 reported burglaries. “Our clearance rate is at the top statewide. The state average is 19 percent, and we came in at (30) percent.

“Once an incident occurs, we pull all of the resources at our disposal to it,” he said.

Meeks, whose department averaged a 15 percent clearance rate in its 33 reported burglaries, credited the same process.

“Without the teamwork of our department and the public, no crimes — be it burglaries, assaults, thefts or murders — would be solved,” he said.