City, county crime stats up in ’13

MARIETTA – While countywide statistics show local crime this past year was comparable to years past, the city of Marietta saw an uptick in multiple categories of violent crime in 2013.

In 2013 the city dealt with several crimes that it did not experience even once in 2012, including a murder, an attempted aggravated murder, an aggravated vehicular assault, seven aggravated burglaries and four aggravated robberies – two of which were reported within the last week at downtown ATMs.

“We’ve had an increase in some of the more violent crimes,” said Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite.

The April murder of 68-year-old Frank B. Stephens marked the first murder inside the city in five years. Prior to that, Landon Evans, 29, was charged with the 2008 murder of the newborn daughter he had conceived with an underage half-sister. The incident was reported in 2009 and counted among the 2009 statistics.

In December, a city resident was charged with attempted aggravated murder. William Bruce Ransom Jr., 53, allegedly fired multiple shots at officers during a Dec. 12 standoff at his home at 140 E. Spring St. Ransom, who was reportedly suicidal, is now being housed at Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare, a psychiatric hospital in Athens, while he undergoes treatment and evaluation.

Aside from the Evans’ homicide, there were no homicides or attempted homicides reported in the city in 2008, 2009, or 2010.

Rape was another category that saw a slight increase in 2013. The Marietta Police Department investigated 13 rapes in 2013, compared to 11 in 2008, 10 in 2009 and nine in 2010.

There were also no instances of aggravated robbery or aggravated burglary in 2008, 2009 or 2010. Anything from carrying a weapon to entering a house while the resident is home can elevate a robbery or burglary to an aggravated charge, said Waite.

Statistics for 2011 were not immediately available, but 2013 was one of the department’s busiest years that Waite could recall.

“I think calls for service in general saw an increase this year,” Waite said.

Though a few instances of more serious crimes have happened in 2013, residents should still feel safe in Marietta, said Waite.

“Marietta is still a pretty safe place to live compared to the problems a lot of other places have,” he said.

Marietta resident Eric Johnson, 33, agreed. Johnson has lived in Marietta for around 10 years but previously lived in more populated cities.

“I’ve lived in Columbus and Phoenix. Those are two comparatively different places, and I felt safe in those cities but clearly there was more crime going on,” he said.

Johnson said he does not know anyone local who has directly been affected by a crime in 2013 and feels safe in Marietta.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office also saw a rise in calls for service last year, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.

In 2012, the office fielded 17,239 calls. It took 17,872 calls in 2013 and that number was likely to surpass 18,000 by the end of December, he said.

However, the overall crime trend for the county is similar to that in years past, said Mincks.

“I would say if you graph (the major offenses) on a chart, you’re going to be fairly even. There isn’t a big spike in any one category,” he said.

Theft is generally a good measurement for crime trends, said Mincks. Theft investigations in the county were down by 2.5 percent this past year. There were 314 theft investigations compared to 322 in 2012.

But county-wide thefts resulted in more arrests last year, 34 compared to 25 in 2012.

On the flip side, reports of family-related assaults were up in 2013 but resulted in fewer arrests. The 205 assaults investigated in 2013 resulted in 52 arrests. In 2012, 150 family-related assault calls resulted in 71 arrests.

An assault investigation may not culminate in an arrest for a variety of reasons, said Mincks. For example, the victim that reported the crime may decide not to pursue charges.

“Sometimes after you get out there, the witness refuses to testify and says ‘I really fell down the steps,'” he said.

Similarly, drug offenses were up while arrests in the same category were down. There were 24 arrests involving drug offenses in 2013 compared to 81 in 2012.

“In drug arrests, sometimes when you’re working a case, you get into the organization and the dominoes start tumbling and it leads to a lot of arrests,” said Mincks.

Arrest numbers were down in 2012 because the task force was taking its time to investigate some large rings and big dealers, he added.

This year’s single criminal attempted homicide investigation involved a St. Marys man who shot, but did not kill, a love interest’s husband, said Mincks.

Michael A. Good, 36, was sentenced in September to six years in prison for the May crime.

Other county-wide stats that were on par for the year include vandalism, which at 90 offenses is even with 2012’s numbers; rape, which at 22 is one up from last year; sexual assaults which are five down from the 18 in 2012; and forgery, which are two up from the 17 in 2012.

Area crime appeared to be slightly on the rise last year, said Reno resident Melissa Erb, 43.

“But I think the Marietta Police Department has done an awesome job of keeping up with it. Unemployment has been up, so crime goes crazy,” she said.

Erb, who has lived in the area all her life, added that she feels perfectly safe at home in Reno and in downtown Marietta.

Investigations into sexual assaults committed against children were also similar to the previous year’s numbers, said Alice Stewart, assistant director of Washington County Children Services.

“2012 and 2013 look like they are going to end up about the same,” she said.

The organization had conducted 37 sexual abuse investigations so far this year. In 2012, it conducted 39 sexual abuse investigations including 99 children who were possibly victims.

The past two years numbers were down from 2011, which saw 53 investigations involving 118 children. However, 2011 was an above-average year for investigations, said Stewart.

Though short-staffed, the department has worked hard to stay on top of the investigations, said Stewart.

“You have to live for the small successes… to know you’ve done a good thing to save other children,” she said.