Drugs still biggest issue for police in region

Based on the annual crime analysis report by the Virginia State Police, crime in the valley continues to be centered on drug-related issues.

Contained in the report are statistics on the amount of crimes committed in 2014 broken down by category and locality.

Of the region’s three counties and various towns, there were five cases classified as murder and non-negligent manslaughter, up from three in 2013.

The town of Strasburg saw the largest increase in crime between 2013 and 2014. With 4,100 criminal incidents per 100,000 population, that total is up 18 percent from the previous year. This largely comes from the increase in drug cases within the town.

“A lot of that has to do with the efforts we’ve taken to try to combat the overdoses with enforcement,” said Strasburg Police Chief Tim Sutherly. “The rest is the other effects of drugs like thievery. They’ve got to have money to get their drugs, so they steal.”

Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron echoed this sentiment saying, “The main thing we seem to deal with is the heroin issue.”

Warren County’s drug and narcotics offenses increased slightly from 443 in 2013 to 458 in 2014, but on the whole the county saw a minor drop in crime.

Shenandoah County dropped 7 percent in incident rate per 100,000 population from 3,202 in 2013 to 2,966 in 2014. While there was an increase in crime in most categories, there were 30 fewer burglaries, 33 fewer destruction/damage/vandalism offenses and 69 fewer drug offenses.

Statewide, fraud increased by 12.5 percent when compared to 2013. “Fraud is one of the biggest problems any jurisdiction faces,” said McEathron.

Within the region, fraud offenses remained about the same in most towns and counties. Strasburg saw the biggest rise, with double the amount of offenses.

Front Royal has seen a significant decrease in crime with 6,423 criminal incidents per 100,000 population. Between this year and last, the town had 87 fewer reported simple assaults and 21 fewer burglaries.

Front Royal Police Chief Norman Shiflett attributes this to an increase in police presence due to the department being fully staffed. While this is still the highest in the region, the total is down from 8,284 in 2013.

Towns such as Edinburg, Middletown and Stephens City show more variance from year to year due to their small population sizes. None of them have more than 2,000 residents. The crime with the highest frequency for all three is larceny. There were 30 reported offenses of it in Middletown in 2014, which accounted for more than 50 percent of the total crime in the town.

To view the crime report, visit http://www.vsp.virginia.gov/Crime_in_Virginia.shtm.

Contact staff writer Hilary Legge at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hlegge@nvdaily.com

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