By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Fairfax County's crime rate has risen by 6 percent over the previous year, according to statistics for 2007 released last week by Fairfax police.
The county's crime rate hit an all-time low in 2006, or as low as police records dating to 1970 go. Crime in 2006 had decreased for the fifth straight year.
But signs in 2006 indicated that the picture might not stay rosy forever, and those signs continued into last year, police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings said. Robberies, which rose in 2006, continued to rise last year, and the 597 robberies were the most recorded in Fairfax.
Larcenies also hit an all-time high in the county. Last year, 14,244 thefts were reported, an increase of nearly 1,200 over 2006.
The rise in larcenies was the main factor in the increased overall crime rate. Total serious crime -- homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft -- rose from 17,108 in 2006, an unprecedented low, to 18,156 last year.
The number of homicides in the county, typically 10 to 22, was 13 last year. That was down from 19 in 2006, and last year was the first since 2000 without multiple homicides.
The number of burglaries reported last year also reached an all-time low, in statistics dating to 1970. Burglary totals in Fairfax typically topped the 5,000 mark in the 1970s and have declined steadily to less than 2,000 in recent years. Last year, 1,409 burglaries were reported, a 10.8 percent drop from 2006.
Jennings said police analysts pointed to several reasons for the 8.9 percent jump in larcenies. She said thefts of Global Positioning System devices from cars had increased dramatically, particularly the models that mount on windshields with suction cups.
The theft of car parts, particularly catalytic converters, also rose last year, Jennings said. The number of police reports made online, as opposed to those made by calling 911 and waiting for an officer to respond, increased significantly, police said. The crimes reported online often involved thefts, Jennings said, and might not have been reported as much in the past.
Statistics show that larcenies also rose last year in Arlington County (up 5.9 percent), Alexandria (up 4.2 percent) and Prince William County (up 2.3 percent). Larcenies decreased by 4.6 percent in Loudoun County.
After burglaries in Fairfax rose 17 percent in 2006, "we really targeted those last year," Jennings said. Police don't like to reveal their crime-fighting techniques, but "we've had things paying off," Jennings said, and the number of burglaries dropped almost 11 percent last year.
The number of robberies rose 18 percent in 2006, and police commanders targeted those as well. Jennings said street robberies accounted for much of the activity, and officers, particularly in Mason District, had success in arresting repeat offenders. The total robberies for last year rose by 25, or about 4 percent, but seemed to be on a downward trend in the last three months of the year, Jennings said.