Drop in crimes continue for second straight year

Both violent and property crime numbers were down in State College for the second year in a row in 2012, and preliminary data from 2013 shows the trend may continue for a third year.

Borough police released their annual report this week and the data shows reported crime dropping nearly across the board.

Property crimes, including theft, burglary and arson, were down 58 percent and violent acts, including assault, rape and robbery, dropped 38 percent, according to the State College Police Department 2012 report.

The data includes crimes reported in State College, College Township and Harris Township, the municipalities patrolled by borough police.

State College Police Chief Tom King said the numbers mirror a larger trend in the state.

“We saw it start in 2011,” he said. “If you go back, 2011 was lower than 2010. What I’m finding out, at least across Pennsylvania, is that they too are seeing a couple of years of decline.”

And while police activity generally increases in the fall with the return of Penn State students, the early numbers for 2013 show the downward trend is on pace to continue, according to King.

King, who started with the department in 1981 and has served as chief since 1993, could immediately explain the drop here and across the state.

“I don’t think it’s anything locally that we are doing differently,” he said.

The long-time police chief said such a trend is not unusual, calling them cyclical. But he said crime trends will often match the economy. In tough times, the number of certain types of crimes increase.

“It’s not even matching the way the economy has swung,” King said.

Changes in the way the borough enforces noise violations also caused a significant shift in crime reporting numbers for 2012. Those complains are no longer handled as disorderly conduct charges through the courts, but as borough ordinance violations.

The number of crimes reported dropped from 7,979 in 2011 to 3,792 in 2012, while a catch-all category for other call for service jumped from 10,128 in 2011 to 20,138 in 2012. The drastic changes can partly be explained by the noise violations changes, King said.

King called the change positive this week, saying it has acted as a deterrent to repeat offenders, who face stiffer penalties for subsequent violations under borough code than they would in the courts.

“Once we tell them the fine goes up, that helps deter future violations,” King said.

The change have not generated any significant increase in revenue for the borough, he said.

In the report, police said alcohol fueled approximately two-thirds of all crime in State College. “One of the greatest facing the State College community is alcohol abuse,” police wrote.

Of the 3,700 some reports of crime in 2012, 84 percent of the incidents were classified as either disorderly conduct, alcohol crimes or criminal mischief.

The majority of 829 reported property crimes were thefts (82 percent) and most of the 193 violent crimes were classified as assaults (87 percent).

There were more instances of robbery (6.7 percent of total violent crimes) than rapes (5.7) reported in the borough in 2012., according to the figures.