By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
Crime in Killeen decreased in the first quarter of 2009, the result of sharp declines in burglaries, robberies and aggravated assaults that outpaced a recession-driven increase in larcenies.
Violent crime decreased 17.58 percent and nonviolent crime dropped 0.89 percent through the first three months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, according to first-quarter numbers released by the Killeen Police Department at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
The numbers revealed few surprises to Chief Dennis Baldwin. He was pleased to see a 28.51 percent decrease in burglaries, which follows on the heels of a 26.3 percent drop in 2008.
The declines come after half a decade when Killeen led Texas cities with the highest burglary rate. The title "Burglary Capital of Texas" should be long gone when the Department of Public Safety releases statewide numbers used to calculate crime rates later this year.
If the downward trend continues through the rest of 2009, Killeen could possibly fall outside the top 10.
The steepest increase during the first quarter of 2009 came in larcenies, which rose 23.44 percent, spurred on by the nationwide recession. The increase follows historical and nationwide trends that misdemeanors such as vehicle burglaries, shopliftings and thefts increase during economic downturns.
"As soon as the economy slowed down, we started seeing the numbers increase," Baldwin said.
Aggravated assaults rose by 14.09 percent overall in 2008, but decreased by 15.63 percent in the first quarter of 2009. Baldwin attributed the drop to more awareness about family violence through an advertising campaign KPD launched in late 2008.
Baldwin also credited Fort Hood's family support programs with helping families cope better with stress that leads to aggravated assaults.
"While we're seeing aggravated assaults drop; that's good news, but we're not out of the woods yet," Baldwin said, emphasizing that constant awareness is needed.
Baldwin's presentation drew a few unrelated questions from Councilman Juan Rivera on police recruiting and bilingual programs, but silence from other council members.
When the U.S. Census Bureau releases updated Killeen population data later this year, the declines listed Tuesday should be even greater because the population number used to calculate the crime rate is based on 2007 Census numbers instead of updated numbers.
Killeen's population has increased each year since 2000 and is expected to continue to do so.
Contact Victor O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468.
Killeen 1Q crime comparison
Murders 1* 0
Rape 10 15
Robbery 43 27
Agg. assault 128 108
Burglary 442 316
Larceny 627 774
Vehicle thefts 44 43
*The murder in 2008 resulted from a death in a 2006 incident involving a victim who never recovered from the injuries.