By Ben Kleppinger
The times, and the crimes, are changing at Eastern.The number of alcohol arrests and reported burglaries has steadily climbed since 2004, according to the Eastern Police Department 2007 annual crime report.
In 2004, nine people were arrested for alcohol-related incidents and 13 burglaries were reported, according to the report.
Last year, there were 38 alcohol arrests and 49 reported burglaries, more than in 2004 and 2005 combined, according to the report.
Alcohol referrals, offenses that go through Judicial Affairs and do not count as arrests, have also seen a sharp rise since 2004.
Police Chief Mark Welker said the increase in burglaries is actually a statistical change, due to a change in how Eastern police report crimes.
Before 2006, police reported many more offenses, such as stealing from residence hall rooms, as thefts rather than burglaries, Welker said.
Before he was chief, Welker said stealing from residence halls was only considered theft. ” (Now) if you go in with the intent to commit a crime, it goes from theft to burglary,” he said.
Welker said the change in reporting conduct doesn’t show up on the published annual crime report because it does not show the number of thefts.
As for the increase in alcohol arrests, Welker said the amount of data in the annual crime report isn’t enough to see a real trend.
Welker said he would need at least four to six years of data to see any definite trends.
“I’m very careful in the way I interpret these statistics one year to the next,” he said.
Welker said he wouldn’t jump to conclusions if crime had dropped either.
“You got to be careful.when the numbers drop not to try to take credit for something, because you don’t know what you’re taking credit for,” he said. “Next year if there’s a spike, you gotta take credit for that too.”
Welker said liquor law violations are one of several focuses for Eastern police, and Eastern police have tried to crack down on liquor law violations.
The crime report also shows a spike in arsons in 2005, rising from seven in 2004 to 16 in 2005, and then dropping back to seven in 2006.
Welker said the spike was, like the rise in burglaries, in part due to how Eastern police report crimes.
“If someone puts a cigarette out on a wall, that’s not necessarily arson,” Welker said. “At one point, we were referring to just about everything (of that nature) as arson.”
Whatever the reasons for the increases and decreases, Welker said 20 years in law enforcement has taught him not to judge too quickly.
“It’s difficult to predict the behavior of that many people.over a period of one year,” he said. “It’s almost impossible, actually.