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February 27, 2013

Birmingham crime still low, report says

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

BIRMINGHAM — The Birmingham Police Department has released its annual crime report, and for the most part, the numbers remain largely unchanged.

The annual report analyzes yearly crime statistics by category, as well as the number of service calls, citations, arrests and more, comparing it to data from previous years. According to Cmdr. Terry Kiernan of the Birmingham Police Department, it’s relatively normal for the report to only reflect minor changes from year to year.

“Everything is consistent. There’s no huge moves,” he said. “There’s not one thing we’re looking at here and saying, ‘Gosh, that’s way up.’ You’d love to have all these be zeros, but you try to minimize your crime as much as you can, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job of that.”

Overall, the report shows that calls for service went down from 16,983 in 2011 to 16,571 in 2012 — which is 1,142 fewer calls than in 2010. Criminal sexual conduct incidents held steady at two, while robberies also stayed the same at seven over the course of the year.

The number of burglaries in the city increased from 48 in 2011 to 64 in 2012, though Kiernan said that, in the big picture, the change is not unusual.

“We’re talking an increase of, what, 16? That number, if you think about it, it’s still within close proximity of other years,” he explained. “Every so often, a crew comes in and hits you for a couple of weeks and drives your stats up. But then we catch them or they move on and that’s the end of it.”

The number of operating while impaired cases also went up, from 43 in 2011 to 61 in 2012, while adult arrests increased to 351 last year from 244 in 2011. Kiernan said that, too, can be explained.

“You’re going to see our drunk driving arrests going up because we’ve got three or four new officers and they’re aggressively enforcing the traffic,” he said.

Birmingham also saw its first homicide investigation in several years following the death of resident Tawnya Jarvis, who died of a lethal dose of heroin June 26, 2012. Kiernan said that, following an adjournment, Southfield resident Richard Babbie is expected to be back in Oakland County’s 48th District Court this week on charges that he allegedly helped administer the drug to Jarvis.

On a positive note, vandalism cases fell by 13 from 2011 to 2012, while larceny incidents fell by 79 during that same time.

The report also details changes in the department operationally, and in turn, financially. Chief Don Studt discussed improvements that occurred last year, many of which revolved around the department’s dispatch consolidation with Beverly Hills.

“We renovated the communications center and began dispatching for the Beverly Hills Department of Public Safety. This project included replacement of the 911 equipment with an Intrado Positron Viper system, the installation of one additional 911 trunk line, workstation and video system upgrades and additions,” said Studt in the report. “The capital costs were over $110,000 for this project, which was paid by the city of Birmingham using federal drug forfeiture funds.”

In 2012 the department also changed duty weapons, replaced tactical vests and body armor for auxiliary officers, and upgraded patrol car audio and video systems, as well as the downtown camera system.

Studt added that, because the department now receives 911 and nonemergency police, fire and medical calls from the village of Beverly Hills, he foresees an increase in personnel costs going forward to handle the additional call volume.

To view the full report as well as reports from previous years, visit www.bhamgov.org, click on the City Government tab, then the Police tab and then crime statistics.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.