The number of suburban Virginia households victimized by burglars jumped 74 percent in the past five years, according to a report released last week by the Northern Virginia Planning District Commission.
The report also said the value of stolen property for Northern Virginia, even after adjusting for inflation, has increased more than 94 percent since 1986, to more than $36 million a year.
The figures reflect a trend away from burglaries at businesses or other commercial establishments to burglaries at suburban residences, according to the study prepared by the state-run planning commission, which coordinates planning by local governments on various issues throughout the region.
"Burglaries continue to be the most pressing of our crime problems," said Fairfax County police spokesman Warren Carmichael. "The most pronounced impact has been on citizen concern for the problem. We're literally adding neighborhood watch programs by the week."
The commission is a regional planning agency authorized by the Virginia General Assembly in 1968 and created by the 12 Northern Virginia jurisdictions in 1969. Made up of 15 citizens and 17 local government officials, it is designed "to assist local governments in resolving problems of a regional nature," according to Tom Brannan, public information officer for the commission. The commission report was compiled using Uniform Crime Reports supplied by the FBI and Virginia State Police, Brannan said.
Commission officials said the study revealed a full 45 percent of all arrests in Northern Virginia are for drug or alcohol-related offenses. There were 19,523 arrests for alcohol-related crimes in 1980 in the fast-growing suburbs, up from fewer than 12,000 in 1976, the report said.
"If you want to talk about how officers have to spend their time, it demonstrates that (substance abuse) is a major drain on the system," said Susan Mull, director of public safety programs for the commission. "Only 5 percent of those arrests involves drugs. The real 'drug' problem in this area is drinking."
Still, the report showed that drug-related arrests increased by 252 percent in Arlington County and by 106 percent in Fairfax County in the five-year period. For all of Northern Virginia, drug and alcohol arrests were up 49 and 54 percent respectively, the report said.
The study also showed the police force in the small town of Vienna led all Northern Virginia jurisdictions in resolving serious crime cases with a clearance rate of 47.7 percent of the crimes reported in the period covered by the study. (Cleared cases are those considered closed because of an arrest or other reason.) Among major Northern Virginia jurisdictions, Fairfax County ranked highest with a crime clearance rate of 18.6 percent, below both the national clearance rate of 20 percent and the Virginia rate of 23 percent for the period.
Northern Virginia police forces solved 83 percent of their murder cases, bettering the national average of 73 percent but falling below the state average of 92 percent. In other serious crime categories, Northern Virginia authorities surpassed the national average of clearances, but trailed the state average, the report showed.
The number of juvenile arrests in the region declined by 5 percent to 16 percent of all arrests, the report added. But it said the proportion of serious crimes for which juveniles were apprehended rose to 35 percent in 1980, up from 23 precent in 1976.