Police chief doesn’t view crime increases in 2015 as a trend

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published May 23, 2016

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ROYAL OAK — Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue said last week the city is a safe place to live, as evidenced by historical crime data and a dedicated police force.

“We’ve had steady drops in crime for really two decades,” O’Donohue said. “And this year we had a 5 percent increase in Part A crimes.”

O’Donohue said many reported crimes in the city are still decreasing despite seeing an increase in a couple of categories — significantly frauds.

The chief said any increase is a concern, and the department is on top of it, but he doesn’t see the one-year increase in aggregated crime statistics as a trend.

“They are what they are, but if you look at it, you’re not always comparing apples to apples over time,” he said.

The chief’s words came with the release of the Royal Oak Police Department’s 2015 annual report.

The 47-page document details department personnel, philanthropic endeavors, operational data, crime statistics and a variety of other information on police activity during the last year.

“We’re seeing a couple of downslides on certain things, but for the most part, the Police Department is up and running and efficient, and the community is safe,” said Mayor Jim Ellison.    

The mayor said he is pleased with the thorough report and the level of detail it provides regarding all police activity throughout the year.

Ellison said a city is going to see ups and downs across the board, but the sign of a good police department is solving and eradicating crimes.

“They are doing a good job keeping the city safe and concentrating on where they need to concentrate,” he said.

According to the report, Royal Oak saw just over a 5 percent increase in Part A and Part B offenses. Part A offenses increased 5.2 percent and Part B offenses increased 5.5 percent.

Part A offenses include murder, negligent homicide, some forcible and non-forcible sex offenses, robbery, assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson, kidnapping, forgery and other crimes.

“Part A crimes are generally your more serious crimes, the crimes people usually care about the most,” O’Donohue said.

Part B offenses include some frauds, some non-forcible sex offenses, nonviolent family offenses, drunken driving, liquor law violations, disorderly conduct and other crimes.

O’Donohue said that although he feels any statistical increase is concerning, crime rates in Royal Oak are still low. He said that in 2015, the city had new record lows in assaults, motor vehicle thefts and robberies.

Aggravated assaults decreased from 43 in 2014 to 28 in 2015; robberies decreased from 10 in 2014 to seven in 2015; and motor vehicle thefts decreased from 45 in 2014 to 25 in 2015.

The city saw an increase in burglaries from 78 in 2014 to 97 in 2015. O’Donohue said the 2015 statistic is still down from 320 in 2006.

“So any increase as a year-to-year percentage would be a lot, but it’s still our second-lowest on record,” he said.

O’Donohue said a large spike in burglary statistics came from a single spree in the summer and fall of 2015.

“Between good patrol work, and good investigative work and good collaboration with other departments, we had six different … cases and arrests made,” he said.

O’Donohue said the department is on a 24-hour review of any police issue needing attention in Royal Oak.

“We look at, ‘Is there something going on that we need to pivot to?’” he said.

O’Donohue said the department also coordinates efforts with neighboring departments.

Two homicides happening within weeks of each other last fall comprised both murders in 2015.

The last time the city saw two murders in one year was in 2011. The city had zero murders in 2012 and 2013 and one murder in 2014.

In both 2015 murder cases, the suspects were linked personally to the victims and the incidents happened in the suspects’ homes.

The chief said a spike in arson cases from three in 2014 to seven in 2015 was the result of a rash of cars set on fire, cases that remained unsolved and under investigation.

O’Donohue said an increase in fraud and identity theft cases also contributed to the overall rise in crime statistics from 2014 to 2015. O’Donohue said there was a 286 percent increase in fraud and impersonation.

Other data shows total reports filed in 2015 increased from 45,937 in 2014 to 49,462 in 2015, and total 911 and nonemergency calls to the department dropped from 84,683 in 2014 to 81,592 in 2015.

Total parking violations issued decreased from 92,454 in 2014 to 86,955 in 2015.

Departmental community events highlighted in the report included the Royal Oak Police Department Charity Golf Outing, Mustache March, Are You Faster than a Cop? and the sixth annual Guns & Hoses charity hockey game.

Royal Oak Police Sgt. Patrick Stanton recently presented a check for $15,000 to the family of fallen Michigan State Trooper Chad Wolf following a successful fundraising hockey game held earlier this year.

O’Donohue said the department reached two of its three goals set for 2015.

The department just wrapped up a citizens police academy and added a second K-9, Jesse, named after fallen Royal Oak police officer Jesse Crowe. Crowe was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1931.

The goal not yet hit was to have the department fully staffed at 75 sworn officers.

O’Donohue said the hiring process has been slow and deliberate.

“Finding qualified candidates has been a challenge,” he said. “And quite frankly, we’ll go short rather than hire the wrong people in hopes that they’ll somehow become the right people.”

The report was expected to be presented and approved by members of the City Commission during the May 23 regular meeting, which took place after the Review’s press time.

The full report is available by visiting www.romi.gov/webfm_send/4576. The department also recommends that residents visit www.crimemapping.com to follow city trends.

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