Drug use continues to drive crime in the area, and stats in Washington from the past year support that.
Police Chief Ed Menefee points to the jump in the numbers of stolen vehicles in Washington in 2018 compared to the previous year.
As previously reported in The Missourian, there were 40 stolen cars last year, double of that in 2017.
“Much of this is from heroin addicts,” Menefee said. “They steal (a car), take it to St. Louis and trade it for dope — or a friend borrows it (vehicle) and trades it for dope.”
There is a relatively high recovery rate of vehicles over the past two years, he added. In 2018, there were 31 vehicles recovered, and 18 of the 20 stolen vehicles in 2017 were recovered.
In many cases, the keys were left in the vehicle. Washington police have warned the public about locking their cars and removing valuable items.
There were four cases of tampering with a motor vehicle in 2018. There were no cases in 2017.
There was a decrease in total drug offenses in 2018. There were 159 drug offenses in 2017, compared to 124 last year.
However, Menefee said there is no obvious sign of a decrease in drug use here.
“It seems that everybody we stop for shoplifting, or as a suspicious person, is in possession of drugs,” he said.
In 2018, there were 773 arrests made by Washington police. That is down from 877 in 2017, when there was a significant increase over previous years. In 2016, there were 429 arrests, 538 arrests in 2015 and 598 in 2014.
In 2018, there were 477 larceny offenses, down from 517 the previous year. Many of those are shoplifting, Menefee noted.
The chief explained that the number of people being caught stealing from stores continues to increase.
“There has been an uptick in shoplifters caught,” he said. “Cameras really help out in identifying suspects.”
Menefee noted that businesses that do not have cameras are targets for theft.
“Word gets around, if they want to stay out of jail, about what places have cameras,” he said. “The cameras in businesses give us good evidence.”
In 2018, there was a slight decrease in burglaries from the previous year. There were 35 burglaries in 2018 and 37 in 2017.
There was one robbery in 2018, up one from the previous year when there were no robberies.
The robbery occurred Dec. 15 at Maurices clothing store when a barefooted white female went into the store at 1915 Vernaci Drive and demanded cash.
Police said the woman handed the clerk a handwritten note demanding money. Authorities said the salesclerk feared the woman had a weapon and she placed cash from the register drawer into a store shopping bag, which she handed to the woman.
There is no indication that the suspect had a weapon. Police did not disclose the amount taken from the store.
There has not yet been an arrest made in the robbery, but the investigation is ongoing, Menefee said.
According to Menefee, fraud is on the rise in Washington.
“That is always around, but there seemed to be an uptick last year,” he said.
Oftentimes, the criminals prey on elderly, with ruses that a relative is in jail and they need money. The victim is told a check is in the mail, but they need to immediately purchase a prepaid credit card and mail it to the sender.
Menefee added there also have been several instances when a person poses as the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) or a bill collector and threatens the victim with jail time or shutting off their power if they don’t pay immediately.
There were 2,977 total reports taken in 2018, the exact same as in the previous year.
Menefee noted there was a drop in assaults last year when there were 158. In 2017, there were 172 assaults.
Following are other crime category totals in 2018, compared to the previous year:
Homicide — zero, no change;
Rape — six, increase of one;
Arson, one, increase of one; and
Domestic violence, 100, increase of one.