Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl during a promotion ceremony for Dayton Police Officers in March. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

After double-digit drops, Dayton crime rates rise

Police chief says he’s not surprised because ‘the decline was so steep in 2017.’

When it comes to crime, more is never good.

But that’s what’s happened in Dayton.

A Dayton Daily News investigation found that last year, more cars went missing, and more vehicles and properties were broken into.

More people were busted for weapons violations, and more people were homicide victims.

MORE: Area police chiefs share their top crime concerns

More people were arrested for promoting prostitution, and more people came forward to report rape and sexual assault.

But police say there’s also more to the story, adding that Dayton remains safer than it was in the recent past.

Violent gun crime, one of the police department’s top priorities, was at a 10-year low, said Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl. He added: the overall increases in crime were modest and unsurprising given dramatic declines in 2017.

Increased numbers in some categories, like prostitution and weapons offenses, can reflect deliberate efforts by law enforcement to crack down on the unwanted activities, officials said.

Increased reporting of rape and sexual assaults likely reflect a growing willingness of victims to come forward, partly a result of the #MeToo movement, police officials said.

MORE: Dayton sex assault reports increase: Victims ‘more willing to seek out help’

In 2017, all four major property and violent crime categories fell by double-digit percentages in Dayton. It was the first time that had happened in roughly a decade — maybe longer, police officials said.

The Daily News on Sunday launched a six-part look at crime in local communities that includes Dayton, Huber Heights, Beavercreek, Miamisburg and Springboro. We will keep digging and have other communities this spring.

A ‘remarkable year’

Overall, crime fell 10 percent, making 2017 a “remarkable year” for public safety in the city, Biehl said.

The decline didn’t last, and overall crime increased by 2 percent last year. Police noted that crime levels still were 8 percent lower than 2016.

“The decline was so steep in 2017 that we would see a little bit of a rebound isn’t necessarily a surprise,” Biehl said.

Last year, more people in Dayton reported having their pockets picked and their properties and possessions vandalized.

Shoplifting, unarmed robbery, stolen property offenses and trespassing reports increased.

MORE: After a ‘remarkable year’ for crime decreases in Dayton, here’s what data show for 2018

Police saw a 15 percent increase in breaking and entering reports and a 33 percent increase in commercial and residential arson.

Dayton had 37 murders and nonnegligent manslaughter incidents in 2018, which was four more than 2017, but two less than 2016.

Dayton had 27 criminal homicides each year in 2012, 2013 and 2014. There were 30 in 2015.

‘More likely to die’

Police for many years have focused on reducing gun violence, because it is so deadly.

Last year, 32 of the 37 homicides in Dayton involved firearms.

MORE: Dayton’s prostitution problem closely tied to drug issues

“Someone who is injured by gun crime is 12 times more likely to die if they are assaulted by a firearm than any other weapon,” Biehl said. “Gun crime, because of the sheer lethality potential, has to be the priority.”

In addition to more homicides, more people last year also were injured by gunfire.

But Biehl cited one trend he called extremely encouraging: Firearm-related crime in 2018 fell to the lowest level in a decade.

Biehl said it’s not immediately clear why this happened, but the department’s strategies likely are playing a role.

Two years ago, the police department announced it was reorganizing to create a Violent Crimes Bureau, which gave special attention to violent offenders and offenses.

Dayton also deployed a “place-based” investigative strategy to try to disrupt criminal activities and networks in crime hot spots. Gun violence often is concentrated in very small geographic areas, like certain street corners, and taking those areas away can reduce crime, officials said.

MORE: Who gets busted for pot possession in Dayton? Black men, mostly

‘The gun has a spirit of its own’

Community leaders also are trying to teach people better methods of dealing with stress and conflict to prevent escalation, because people get killed and go to prison over the smallest disputes, said Tony Ruby Sr., a community advocate.

Ruby said he urges community members to not carry guns to prevent disagreements from potentially escalating and turning to violence.

“The gun has a spirit of its own,” he said. “We tell them, ‘If you don’t carry it, that gun won’t talk to you.’ ”

Ruby said he’s talked to inmates who say they wouldn’t be in prison if they would have just left their gun at home.

Dayton is taking other steps to try to reduce violence.

Last month, Dayton leaders approved spending $50,000 to help establish the Greater Dayton Homicide Review Commission.

The commission will be tasked with developing a detailed plan for reducing violence and identifying root causes of crime in Dayton neighborhoods.

Each homicide will be reviewed to try to understand how it happened and how similar incidents might be prevented in the future.

Program goals include formulating a long-term strategy for decreasing crime and incivility in Dayton neighborhoods and connecting law enforcement, community stakeholders, neighborhood residents and others.

MORE: Buying sex in Dayton: Prostitution-related offenses on rise

Higher numbers by design

Some crime-fighting strategies by design lead to more arrests, which leads to higher crime numbers, officials said.

Police deliberately launch investigations, crackdowns and decoy operations to try to disrupt prostitution activities.

Dayton police last year saw a 67 percent increase in assisting or promoting prostitution offenses.

Last year, Dayton police received 33 percent more reports of forcible fondling and 22 percent more reports of rape.

Police have received more reports of sexual assaults that happened after people met in person after talking on Internet sites, like dating apps, said Dayton police Major Brian Johns.

But Johns and victim advocates say the increase in reports suggest more victims are coming forward.

Police have taken steps to make it less intimidating for victims to report sex crimes. Police will come interview victims wherever they feel comfortable, and an interview room has been remodeled so it feels more relaxing and is more private than the typical police station setting, Johns said.

Getting victims to come forward is crucial because sexual predators and perpetrators don’t typically stop on their own, he said.

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