By Reggie Ellis
After a slight drop in 2002, crime in Exeter increased 23 percent for a six-year high. Total crimes reported in 2003 were up 386 from the 1,229 crimes reported in 2002.
Misdemeanor crimes were up 28 percent and accounted for 54 percent of all crimes reported. Police Chief John Kunkel said the high number of misdemeanor arrests is not so much an increase in crime but the result of a concerted effort to encourage residents to report even the smallest crime.
"Many of these crimes were underreported in years past," Kunkel said. "Now people aren't afraid to call, even for something like a garden hose that was stolen."
Among violent crimes, the largest increase came in assaults. There were 94 assaults in 2002 and 159 in 2003, a 40 percent increase and the highest in six years. There was one homicide, four rapes and two robberies in 2003, all similar to 2002.
"Assaults include domestic violence," Kunkel said. "That number will fluctuate and there really isn't a pattern or a reason why."
Theft related crimes saw increases especially burglaries, which are at a six-year high. There were 111 burglaries in 2003 compared to 71 in 2002. Kunkel said 80-90 percent of burglaries are items stolen from locked vehicles. Grand theft increased from 53 to 65 and petty theft from 212 to 247, both the highest in six years. However, for the first time in six years, auto thefts decreased, going from 46 in 2002 down to 34 in 2003.
While crimes are at a six-year high so are arrests. The Exeter Police Department made 874 arrests in 2003, up from 689 in 2002, a 21 percent increase. Juvenile arrests have been on an upswing from 81 in 2001 to 154 last year. Adult arrests are at a six-year high, 720, compared to 574 in 2003. Felony arrests increased from 139 to 214 and misdemeanor arrests increased slightly from 442 to 466. Drunk in public arrests increased from 13 to 36. DUI arrests increased 40 percent from from 95 in 2002 to 158 in 2003, another six-year high.
"We have always tried to be vigilant in this area but more so since what happened to Officer Grimsley," Kunkel said. Since Grimsley was hit by a drunken driving while making a traffic stop in September 2001, DUI arrests have increased each year. "We also had a number of successful DUI checkpoints last year."
With DUI arrests so high it seems there were less people drinking and driving in the streets of Exeter. Non-traffic citations were up from 96 to 120. Traffic accidents were down from 92 to 83. Non-injury accidents were down 77 to 68, injury accidents remained at 15 and for the third straight year there were no fatal accidents. Traffic citations were up from 412 in 2002 to 485 in 2003. Kunkel said that number may see a significant increase this year.
"Next year I think citations may be through the roof because of the motorcycle units," Kunkel said. The Exeter Police Department received three, police issued Kawasaki 1000 motorcycles from the Visalia Police Department in February to begin a new traffic enforcement unit. The motorcycles were donated after Visalia Police Department upgraded its motorcycle fleet to eight Harley-Davidson Road Kings. The motorcycles are more maneuverable and will make it easier to catch stop sign runners and traffic violators in the downtown area.
The Exeter Police Department recovered about 25 percent of the lost or stolen property last year. Of the $564,677 that was reported lost or stolen, $144,076 was recovered. Lost or stolen property decreased by more than $10,000.
Officer initiated details increased by 24 percent from 6,816 in 2002 to 9,054 in 2003. Calls for service were up 23 percent, from 11,836 in 2002 to 15,548 in 2003.