Major crimes in Kent rise by 3 percent

By Thomas Gallick | Staff Writer Published:

Arrests increased by 16 percent in Kent in 2012, but major crimes rose only slightly according to the Kent Police Department's annual report, released this week.

Kent police officers made 2,391 arrests in 2012, up from 2,066 in 2011, driven largely by increased arrests for breaking and entering, unlawful noise and drunken driving and other traffic-related offenses.

Kent Police Chief Michelle Lee said she partially attributed the spike in arrests to the youth of officers and consistent staffing levels at the station, but added that a 16 percent change is not particularly uncommon from year-to-year.

"Overall, it was a pretty moderate year as far as our numbers go," Lee said.

The department handled just under 20,000 calls for service in 2012, a 1 percent increase.

Reports of "major eight" crimes (murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson) increased 2.7 percent from 2011. Police received 44 more reports of assault in 2012 than the year before and 22 more reports of burglary, largely accounting for the increase in major crimes.

The department cleared the city's lone homicide case last year when Brian L. Grodzik was arrested and charged with reckless homicide in June 2012 following a 2011 fire that killed his wife at the Sheffield Condominiums on Kent's west side.

Two murders were committed in Kent in 2011, resulting in the conviction of one suspect and the death by suicide of another.

Reports of arson, auto theft, and larceny also fell in 2012.

Lee said she believes the number of arsons in Kent fell for the third consecutive year -- down to 10 incidents in 2012 -- thanks to a concerted effort by the department's officers. She said the department increased patrols and surveillance in neighborhoods with large numbers of student rental properties after a string of dumpster and structure fires in those areas in 2009 and 2010.

"Not only was it a felony crime, but it was affecting our fire department quite a bit," Lee said. "It took a lot of time and equipment and money spent on those responses."

Although the "major eight" crimes increased last year, the department's clearance rate of those crimes also increased to a nine-year high. The department cleared 33 percent of major crimes in Kent, up nearly 2 percent compared with 2011 and 5 percent compared with 2010.

Lee said people who do not have backgrounds in law enforcement may not appreciate the significance of clearing major crimes at a rate of 33 percent. She said crimes like larceny and assault are often reported late and with little evidence pointing to a suspect.

"Often times those cases are not very easy to solve," Lee said. "Those cases are often cold to start with. Thirty-three percent overall is actually a pretty high number -- actually higher than the national average."

The amount of traffic citations issued by the Kent Police Department also trended up in 2012. Officers issued 3,393 citations, representing a 19 percent increase compared with 2011, when the department issued 2,841 citations.

Lee said Capt. Paul Canfield led an effort to increase enforcement of traffic laws in school zones and near the Fairchild Avenue Bridge construction site.

"We had been receiving complaints about the new bridge and construction areas on North Mantua Street, so we really cracked down on those areas," she said.

Lee said the only trend in 2012 that worried the city's law enforcement officials was the continued expansion of block parties and Halloween celebrations between downtown Kent and the northwest edge of Kent State University campus. She said she has been collaborating with officials at the university and neighboring law enforcement agencies to strategize new ways to keep the parties under control this year without endangering the safety of students, residents or officers.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or tgallick@recordpub.com

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