Fairfax County crime hit another record low in 2012, statistics show

Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. moments after his hiring as chief in July. He refused to take any credit for Fairfax's declining crime rate, as his predecessors also did. (Tom Jackman/The Washington Post) Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. moments after his hiring as chief in July. He refused to take any credit for Fairfax’s declining crime rate, as his predecessors also did. (Tom Jackman/The Washington Post)

The number of serious crimes in Fairfax County reached an all-time low last year, with robberies plummeting by 17 percent and auto theft continuing its steady downward trend, even as the population in Fairfax has risen to more than 1.1 million. In addition, the county has now been collecting more detailed crime data under the National Incident-Based Reporting System for two years, which might have been expected to push the numbers upward. But no.

Fairfax only has crime stats dating back to 1970, when the population was about 455,000, but even then the seven “Part I crimes” as defined by the FBI — homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft — totaled nearly 18,600. That number proceeded to steadily rise through the 1970s, and hovered in the 25,000 range through much of the 1990s. But starting in 2002, the total crimes started to decline even as the population was exploding (numerically), and in 2003 the total went under 20,000 and has not gone above since. In 2012 the total dipped below 16,000 for the first time, at 15,792, a 2.6 percent drop from 2011. A record was also set in 2011, when the total was 16,210. Based on a census bureau population of 1,118,602, the total Part I crimes per 100,000 population was 1411.8, the violent crime rate per capita was 73.8 and the homicide rate was 1.4 per 100,000, all of which are insanely low numbers. (Nationally, the violent crime rate per capita was 386.3 in 2011, compared to Fairfax’s 73.8, and the homicide rate was 4.7, compared to Fairfax’s 1.4.)

Larcenies make up the bulk of the Part I crime total, but in four years Fairfax has sliced that number from 16,244 to 13,095, a level not reached since 1973. Technology and smarter policing have helped slash auto thefts (numerically) around the nation, and those have fallen in Fairfax from about 2,000 per year in the early 2000s to 808 measly stolen vehicles in 2012. Burglaries in the affluent county have also dropped to incredibly small numbers, barely more than 1,000 per year now as opposed to 5,000 or 6,000 in the 1970s and 1980s. The total number of violent crimes, 826 for homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, is at a level not seen since 1983.

As per Fairfax tradition, the stats were released long after every other jurisdiction has done so, and the county police are rigorously unwilling to take any credit for the declining crime. “Every number and statistic is a person in the community,” new Fairfax police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. said. “We’ve got to keep pushing to make it lower. We’ve got a great community and great community policing. Community involvement is the key. They’re seeing things, they’re calling us and helping us to solve crimes.”

Whether it’s the policing, the affluence, or the (insert your theory here), Fairfax’s crime numbers for 2012 were phenomenally low. Here’s the chart of the Part I crimes, and you can (insert your theory here) in the comments.

Type   2011   2012   Percent change
Homicide   12   16   33%
Rape   72   73   1%
Robbery   423   350   -17%
Aggravated Assault   392   387   -1%
Burglary   1021   1063   4%
Larceny   13409   13095   -2%
Auto Theft   881   808   -8%
Total Part I Crime   16210   15792   -2.6%
Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.

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Mark Berman · October 2, 2013