Alexandria police said this week that the number of reported bulglaries in the city has [WORD ILLEGIBLE] almost 15 per cent during the past year. Police said part of the increase could be attributed to juvenile courts, which police believe have not dealt severely enough with repeat offenders. As a result, police said, some juveniles are arrested a dozen times or more on burglary charges.
In a report to the Alexandria City Council, Deputy Police Chief Clyde Scott called bulglary the city's "most serious crime problem" and said that juveniles make up more than 50 per cent of those arrested and charged with the crime.
Scott and Alexandria Police Chief Charles T. Strobel, in interviews, blamed the lenient treatment of juveniles by the Alexandria courts for part of the problem.
Scott referred to the case of a juvenile who had been arrested 22 times in Alexandria and charged with robbery, assult, burglary, larceny and other crimes and was released on probation. Scott said the youngster had remainded free until he was severely beaten by an irate Fairfax County homeowner who had caught the juvenile bulglarizing his home.
"The suspect is now in Fairfax County Jail awaiting trial on the bulglary charge and will probably receive more jail time there on the one charge than on all of Alexandria's (charges) combined," Scott wrote in his report to the city council.
The deputy police chief explained later that his assumption was based on the case of another individual who has been arrested "numerous" times in Alexandria while he was a juvenile and had been released each time under court supervision. This same offender was later arrested as an adult by Fairfax County police Scott said, and received a seven-year in jail term for bulglary.
Alexandria Juvenile District Court Judge Joseph L. Peters Jr., who assumed his position just this week, said he assumed the statistics cited by the police department were accurate. But Judge Peters refused to comment on whether the juvenile courts in Alexandria had been lenient in the past with repeat burglary offenders.
Although Alexandria is much smaller in both size and population than Fairfax County, the city reported 2,360 burglaries in the first 11 months of 1977, nearly half the number that Fairfax County did, according to the Alexandria police. Arlington Counth, which has about 38,000 more people than Alexandria, had less than half the number of reported burglaries than were reported in Alexandria last year.
Police officials are at a loss to explain why burglary has risen so sharply in the city, but Chief Strobel believes it may be due in part to the large concentration of low-income housing projects in Alexandria. Strobel added that as of July 1 some cases, which formerly had been reported as larcenies are now considered to be burglaries, and this has had some impact on the statistics as well.
Most of the increase in the burglary rate has been centered in the city, a mainly residential section of townhouses and apartment buildings, police said. Burglaries have also increased along the commercial corridor of King Street adjoining the city's old and historic district.
Police say the majority of reported burglaries (69.9 per cent) are residential. Scott said police are still looking for the burglars who took $30,000 worth of silverware last month from a home in Beverly Hills, a residential section of single-family homes, which sell for $70,000 and up. The deputy chief said that while burglaries with such large hauls do not occur everyday, they are also not unique.
In an effort to reduce the burglary rate, police said they are redeploying some beat officers and beginning a public education campaign in crime prevention. Police officers will be sent into the ares of the city that have experienced the highest burglary rates to tell citizens how they can protect themselves and their property. In addition, two officers are now being trained to help people mark their property with registration numbers, which would then be stored in a computer at police headquaters. Police believe this will make it easier to recover and identify stolen goods.
Police are also intensifying their patrols of the downtown manpower area by concentrating manpower there during the peak burglary crime hours between midnight and 8 a.m. The department has designated the special operations division as the strike force to try and curtail burglaries; in addition, the K-9 foot patrol (officers with dogs) has been increased from seven to eight men.
Both Strobel and Scott emphasize that the police made 241 burglary arrests during the first 11 months of 1977, compared with 172 arrests for burglary in all of 1976. Nevertheless, the clearance rate the number of cases closed) dropped from 10.1 per cent in 1976 to 9.4 per cent in 1977.