The background of crime in Burlington and North Carolina

Multimedia reporting by Erin Valentine

Part of a team reporting project on crime and community in Burlington, NC

In Burlington, NC, the connection between preventing crime and interacting with the community is essential.

“It takes a lot of work between everybody involved,” Lt. Currie of the Community Relations division said. “We need citizens and everybody to help us do our job, and they expect a certain thing from us for service, and so we all just have to work together and form a common ground.”

According to the RAIDS Online database, some of the most committed crimes over the past year in Burlington were assault, theft, vandalism, DUI, residential burglary, aggravated assault and motor vehicle burglary.

Crimes reported over the past year in Burlington, NC, Graphic courtesy of RAIDS Online

According to North Carolina’s Department of Justice compilation of crime statistics report from 2013, which is the most recent report available to the public, Alamance County’s crime rate is in the top 25 of all 100 counties in North Carolina.

The most common crimes in North Carolina are larceny, burglary and aggravated assault. The report also showed the total number of arrests in 2013 to be 87,048, with over 9,800 of those arrests being juveniles.

Crime in North Carolina has been on the decline in the past decade. Between 2004 and 2013, all crimes have dropped by 12.6%, with the largest decrease being in motor vehicle theft, rape, arson and robbery.

Table from the NC Dept. of Justice on the crimes in Alamance County over the past decade.

Table from the NC Dept. of Justice on the crimes in Alamance County over the past decade.

Citizens have the opportunities to look at this information in specific areas through RAIDS Online. RAIDS Online is a public crime map compiled for BAIR, which allows users to see the frequency of certain crimes in specific areas, such as Burlington, NC. Users can choose their allotted timespan and see a breakdown and analysis of the data, using multiple graphs and charts.

According to the RAIDS Online database, some of the most committed crimes over the past year in Burlington, NC, were assault, theft, vandalism, DUI, residential burglary, aggravated assault and motor vehicle burglary.

The data analysis showed that the days of the week with highest numbers of crimes were Wednesday and Thursday. It also showed that Sunday around midnight is a popular time for crime.

The Burlington police department tries to combat these statistics by using intelligence-led policing, Crime Stoppers and Civilian Ride Along program.

Alex English, a crime analyst with the Burlington Police Department, works with RAIDS Online to promote intelligence-led policing.

According to English, the FBI website curates data for all areas that report their crime data. English compiles the data from officers’ reports that are sent to RAIDS Online, and then sends those numbers to the FBI.

“Those numbers go up to the state, each state sends those numbers to the FBI, and that’s sort of how they get the crime index for the nation as a whole,” English said.

For Burlington, their most common crimes over the years have been larcenies.

“If you look at our data, our number one crime is always larcenies,” English said.

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According to English, thefts from grocery stores are usually the homeless stealing food, while thefts from larger stores (i.e. Walmart) with higher priced items (i.e. electronics) are usually stolen so that they can be resold to get money for drugs. The city of Burlington especially has these issues due to the fact that it is home to two of the three Walmarts in Alamance County, which could be a reason for why larcenies are the number one crime.

Information on crimes is collected by police officers. According to English, each officer has a computer in their car. They take down the report in their vehicle, which includes the location. A supervisor approves the reports before they are put on the RAIDS Online map.

English will occasionally go through and make sure that the program is coded correctly. The biggest coding issues they have are the locations based on wherever the call comes in from, as sometimes the location of the crimes will default to the police station if the call is answered there.

Another aspect of English’s position as a crime analyst is to analyze crime trends and see if they’re going up or down, which assists in intelligence-led policing.

“Instead of just randomly driving around for stuff, we look for patterns,” English said. “We’ll sort of see if we can predict the next pattern or what’s going to be a likely target, and set up a patrol around that area.”

When there are lulls in the call volume, English said that they try to be proactive.

According to English, he’ll look at the past week’s reported crimes and compare the numbers to those of the previous five years of data.

“We’ll look at that number, and then we’ll look at the past five years of data and sort of see what’s our average for the five years, and then do one standard deviation above and below,” English said. “So that’s 95 percent of your crime that should generally be in that area to say that’s a normal range, nothing big or low.”

If the recent crime data is above the normal range, English said he knows there should be a red flag and they need to look at what may be going on. If the recent data is lower than normal, then they may look at what they did to keep the number of crimes down.

According to Currie, there is no daily routine for officers. They come in, do role call, receive information on what is going on in the city, what may have happened overnight and what to keep an eye out for. However, this routine is easily disrupted.

“And then, all of a sudden, things can change, and everything will just go haywire all of a sudden,” Currie said. “The power can go out in the city or a stoplight is not working and then we need to go to direct traffic.”

The Burlington Police Department consists of 66 patrol officers who are under the command of Assistant Chief J.E. Kerns. Patrol officers are usually the first responders to calls. According to the police department’s website, in 2012, officers responded to over 64,000 calls.

Each officer is required to complete a minimum of 648 hours of Basic Law Enforcement training to begin, and must continue their education throughout their career. There are eight patrol teams, with 13 to 14 patrol officers on each team. Four shifts rotate throughout the day, with one K-9 unit on each shift.

The K-9 unit is particularly useful in tracking suspects, apprehending suspects, searching buildings and also detecting drugs.

The police department hosts programs to help encourage citizens to get involved. Crime Stoppers is an anonymous way for citizens to call in and report illegal activity. Citizens may receive monetary award depending on the information they provide.

Another program is Civilian Ride Alongs, which gives citizens a chance to apply to accompany an officer on their shift. This way they can get firsthand experience on what the police patrol does.

According to Currie, the Burlington Police Department’s main concern is to connect with the community and have every citizen assist in keeping the city safe.

If you want to see the reporting process for common crimes in Burlington, go to our blog.

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