2016 CRIME UP IN HUNTINGTON AND CHARLESTON - Driven By Drug Epidemic

(03/12/2017)

Every crime from 2016 has been tallied and the numbers released Thursday showing a lot of different criminal trends,

In Huntington the most staggering number was murder rates which quadrupled from 2015 at three, to 12 murders last year, mostly drug related.

Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli said the 2016 murder rate, which was the highest since 1985, is frightening at first glance but tied to a particular group working its way through the city.

"I stress this over and over," Ciccarelli said, "the people that are involved in these situations are involved in drug activity. They're not random acts of violence."

Two other crime spikes tied to drugs include trespassing and stolen property which were both up by roughly 350% between 2015 and 2016.

"It all funnels to into that same concept of battling the drug epidemic," Ciaccarelli said.

Drug arrests took a leap from a little more than 350 to just under 450, seizing roughly 16 thousand pills, 800 grams of crack, and more than 450 thousand bucks worth of heroin.

"If you're not involved in drug activity, the chance of you being involved in a violent crime in this city are virtually nil," he said.

Crime is on the rise in Charleston, according to numbers released Thursday by the Charleston Police Department.

Seven of the eight crime categories the FBI mandates be reported every year saw an increase from 2015 to 2016.

There were approximately 650 more crimes reported in 2016 than 2015. Overall, some of the biggest increases were in the categories of larceny, car break-ins and car thefts.

Murders across the city went up from seven in 2015 to 11 in 2016, with eight in the West District, two in the East District and one in the South District.

Police Chief Brent Webster said in a release the reality is that the heroin and opioid epidemic is driving almost all of the city's crime. Cooper agreed, saying a lot of the crimes are desperate.

"A lot of these crimes are smash and grab crimes is what we call them, where you break a window out of a business, you walk into a business and grab somebody's laptop and run out the door and down the street," Cooper said. "Many of these are not well-choreographed crimes. They are spontaneous. They're clumsy."

Breaking and entering saw a rise to 797 offenses in 2016 from 528 in 2015.

The only crime category that decreased from 2015 to 2016 was rape.

Despite claims to the contrary, with numerous metro areas having increased rates, crimes have been decreasing in the USA for nearly two decades.


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