Serious crime in Cleveland Heights down by 22.4 percent
Year-end crime statistics from the Cleveland Heights Police Department indicate that, despite a few high-profile cases, serious crime was down 22.4 percent in the city in 2014. Serious crimes consist of violent crimes against people and major crimes against property. Less serious incidents, such as trespassing and OVI, are not included in these figures.
Violent crime was down nearly 27.8 percent, led by a 42 percent drop in robberies—from 95 in 2013 to 55 last year. Aggravated assaults decreased 10 percent, to 37 last year.
“I’m proud of those results,” said Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson. “We can always do better, but the data shows we’re moving in the right direction. We’re only a month-and-a-half into 2015, but so far we’re trending lower still for this year.”
There were two murders in the city last year—the same as 2013; and 10 rapes compared to six the previous year. For the second consecutive year, no rape or murder went unsolved.
Serious property crime was down significantly last year as well—dropping 21.8 percent. Leading that was a 27 percent decrease in burglaries, from 255 in 2013 to 186 last year. Theft was down 25 percent, from 1,234 in 2013 to 923 last year. There were two arsons, compared to four in 2013.
The only major increase was auto theft, up 48 percent; 116 vehicles were reported stolen last year—the most in any year since 2011, when the department adopted its current process for recording crime data.
Robertson said a single group of juveniles was responsible for at least nine thefts in a short period of time from city parking lots in the second half of last year. They seemed to have a preference for Chrysler products, he said, which criminals know to be easy to hotwire.
Members of that group were from Cleveland and Euclid, and have been arrested. They were identified through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) that CHPD is now using. Robertson said, “Once we knew who they were we had them cold because we had security footage of them from the parking lots.”
Duh! Lock your car when you leave it
Some 251 times last year, people called the CHPD to report that valuables had been taken from their cars.
In three out of four cases, they had left the cars unlocked.
These thefts don’t show up in the crime statistics already cited in this article because they are Part II crimes—less serious offenses, which the FBI doesn't track in its Uniform Crime Reporting system.
They tend to be crimes of opportunity, according to Robertson; perpetrators walk through city parking lots checking car doors. If they find one unlocked, they’ll rummage through compartments for anything of value.
“If you leave your valet key in the glove box, it turns into auto theft,” he said. “They find the key and off they go.” It happened at least six times last year, probably more, he said.
Thefts from autos were down 13 percent from 2013; last year is the first time the department kept track of how many involved cars that had been left unlocked by the victims.
It’s an example of how the police department is growing more detailed in its use of data.
And there’s a simple takeaway for residents. “Lock your car. Don’t leave your iPhone sitting on the seat,” Robertson said. “If we’d all do that, we’d have a lot less of this type of crime.”
Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum is co-chairman of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee, and is responsible for its advertising sales and market development.