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Crime rates mostly steady throughout the region

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

Crime rates throughout the Northern Shenandoah Valley showed only slight changes for most offenses from 2010 to 2011, according to statewide data compiled by the Virginia State Police.

The data contained in the state police annual report shows the majority of crimes rose or fell by single digits in the region's three counties, towns and the city of Winchester during 2011.

The Frederick County Sheriff's Office investigated two cases of murder or non-negligent manslaughter in 2011, one more than the year before, according to the state police report. No murders were reported among other jurisdictions in the area.

The crimes listed in the report also include kidnapping or abduction; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault; burglary; vehicle theft; larceny and vandalism.

Shenandoah County's crime rates for most offenses showed little change from 2010.

Reported cases of simple assault or intimidation fell from 275 in 2010 to 249 in 2011, one of the few offenses in which there was a significant year-to-year change. Vandalism in the county increased from 210 incidents in 2010 to 249 in 2011.

"We're fortunate that we've got a safe county," said Maj. Scott Proctor of the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office. "We're always looking for ways to improve our efforts with the community and with the neighborhood watch programs and getting information about anything they observe that may be suspicious or out of the ordinary.

"We're always grateful for that input from the community."

Warren County recorded 120 cases of simple assault or intimidation in 2011, a significant increase from 96 in 2010. Vandalism rose from 130 cases in 2010 to 141 in 2011.

Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron cautioned against reading too much into year-to-year fluctuations in crime rates. McEathron said his department pays more attention to trends emerging over a period of years in deciding where to concentrate its efforts.

A one-day incident involving several defendants can create a spike in the crime rate that leaves a distorted impression for the entire year, McEathron said.

"You could have a party where there's five, six or seven people in a fight, and everybody gets charged," he said. "That ups your numbers from just one night."

Crime within the county can also vary widely, he added, citing a hypothetical example of a wave of burglaries striking a single neighborhood and raising the burglary rate for the entire county.

Winchester recorded sharp increases in two crimes: simple assault and drugs and narcotics. Simple assaults or intimidation rose from 636 in 2010 to 677 in 2011. Offenses involving drugs and narcotics increased from 411 to 463 in the city.

Many towns recorded little or no crime in several major categories. For example, eight reported cases of simple assault or intimidation constituted all but one of the violent crimes recorded among Edinburg's 1,041 residents in 2011.

Front Royal, with a much larger population of 14,440, recorded 327 cases of simple assault or intimidation. Front Royal's overall incident rate of 9,286 reported crimes per 100,000 population was second only to Winchester's incident rate of 9,962 among jurisdictions in the region.

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