By Joe Beck
Crime statistics for 2012 show Strasburg to be a mostly safe place that is getting safer.
Police Chief Tim Sutherly's annual report lists a total of 214 offenses that fell within the category that the Virginia State Police consider to be the most serious offenses in its Uniform Crime Reports.
The chief's report shows the 2012 crime index in Strasburg dropped to a record low of 3,352 per 100,000 people. The report describes violent as "virtually non-existent for several years."
Sutherly said the overall crime rate has dropped almost 45 percent since 384 offenses were recorded in 2008.
"Per capita, Strasburg is the safest it has ever been since records have been kept," the report states.
Strasburg recorded no crimes in 2012 among the majority of offenses listed as the most serious by the state police, Sutherly said in an interview Thursday. The category includes murder, rape, armed robbery, kidnapping and intimidation.
"Basically, our violent offenses are very slim, non-existent most of the time," Sutherly said. "What we have is domestic related."
Police counted three aggravated assaults, 30 simple assaults, 60 cases of vandalism, six burglaries and six weapons violations, Sutherly said. There were also five sexual offenses, mostly involving minors, he added.
Drugs use and sales cast a shadow over what was otherwise a good year for public safety, Sutherly said.
Illegal drug activity, much of it involving heroin and misuse of prescriptions, plagues
youth in the community, Sutherly said.
Sutherly said heroin is making a comeback after years of reduced popularity.
"It's coming straight from Baltimore," Sutherly said. "It's been around forever, but it's come on strong in the last few years. It never really went away."
Drug addiction often leads those caught in its grip to commit other crimes, Sutherly said.
"The next thing you know they have a couple hundred dollar a day habit, and, of course, when you have a habit like that, they have to get money from somewhere, and they get it either by selling or stealing," Sutherly said.
Sutherly said the police have made progress in limiting the spread of drugs through cooperative efforts with a regional drug enforcement task force and a dog trained to sniff out the presence of narcotics.
Effective enforcement has led to more arrests and discouraged drug criminals from plying their trade in Strasburg, he said.
"Drug dealers and other criminals in the area, they see what we're doing here," Sutherly said. "It's just a matter of risk vs. reward. Hopefully, they see the risk is not worth the reward."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org