By Joe Beck
Crime in Front Royal was largely unchanged or declined slightly among the many offenses counted in the Virginia State Police's annual crime analysis report for jurisdictions throughout the state.
The recently issued report showed a drop in assaults, the most commonly reported violent crimes. Simple assaults dropped from 327 in 2011 to 281 in 2012 and aggravated assault fell from eight in 2011 to five in 2012.
There were no murders in 2012.
The biggest percentage increase among violent crimes came in the category of sexual assaults, which rose from 13 in 2011 to 22 in 2012.
Front Royal police reported a total of 1,123 incidents in 2012, a decline from the 1,341 tallied in 2011. The crime rate, calculated on the basis of 100,000 population, fell to 7,714 from 9,287 in 2011.
Larceny remained the most common crime in 2012, and it showed an increase over the 2011 figures. Police recorded 434 larceny cases in 2012, compared to 414 in 2011.
Police Chief Norman Shiflett said it was hard to determine what may have caused the increase in larcenies.
"If those numbers have increased, it's probably due to the economy, but those numbers are higher than in previous years," Shiflett said of the larceny category.
Front Royal saw a significant drop in vandalism, according to the state police report. There were 374 cases in 2011, but only 217 counted in 2012.
Shiflett said police are putting a special effort into curbing drug trafficking. The state police reports show 129 drug offenses recorded in 2011, compared to 114 in 2012.
Although the number of drug offenses shows a downward trend from 2011 to 2012, Shiflett said police are concerned about signs that sellers and users are turning increasingly to heroin. Shiflett's comments were similar to those made by Strasburg Police Chief Tim Sutherly recently about the drug trade in his community.
"Drug offenses go in phases, and there's a lot of heroin now, and it's pretty cheap," Shiflett said, adding, "there's just a lot of it in the country. Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Washington, D.C., Martinsburg, W.Va., it's coming from different places."
Front Royal police keep track of drug offenses that also involve overdoses. Overdosing on a drug does not constitute a crime, but it can be associated with crimes such as possession or dealing.
The number of overdoses fell from 20 in 2011 to 15 in 2012, according to department figures.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 Ext. 142 or