By DUSTEN RADER
Since 2012, Fulton County has experienced a dramatic decrease in the number of reported burglaries, but the sheriff’s department isn’t sure that the numbers mean less crime is occurring.
According to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services Uniform Crime Reporting System, in 2016, 143 burglaries were reported throughout the county. In contrast, 301 burglaries were reported in 2012. Each year, the number of burglaries reported has dropped or remained steady: 262 in 2013; 285 in 2014; and 199 in 2015.
It is still too early to tell if that trend will continue, but Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino said factors such as a better performing economy, more proactive policing; and preventative measures by the community; will likely cause a similar result.
The ability of police to respond to incidents depends on factors such as size of the county and the number of officers on duty at any given time. That is why Giardino recently met with the Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee to request three new sheriff’s department employees — including two deputies.
“Our county is more than 500-square miles and that means we have one officer for every 20-square miles,” Giardino said. “We want to beef up our road shift so we have a supervisor and four deputies on. In Gloversville they have one office for every 430 people, Johnstown has one for every 350 and we have one for every 1100 — it’s a dramatic difference.
“I don’t like to see taxes go up, but the impact would be less than a penny per $1,000 — someone with a $100,000 house would pay $10 more,” Giardino continued. “I think for the officer’s safety and for response time to citizens it’s a good thing to have.”
One thing that has, and will likely continue to skew data in a decreasing trend, said Giardino, is that area residents are for a number of a reasons failing to report incidents, including burglaries.
The issue is reflected in the number of adult arrests throughout the county as reported by the DCJS Computerized Criminal History system. Each year, property crime arrests — which include burglaries, larcenies and motor vehicle theft — were far lower than the number of reported incidents. For instance, the number of adult arrests for property crime in 2012 was 264; while 2013 saw 343, 2014 saw 340, 2015 saw 297, and 2016 saw 243. Giardino said this downward trend indicates both fewer reported property crimes as well as arrestees generally being charged for multiple incidents.
“I think it’s three-fold,” Giardino said. “Sometimes people don’t report it, people we’ve caught do multiple burglaries and close-out rates (arrests that result in charges after a report is made) are rising.”
Reporting incidents by phone, online or via Facebook is the most effective way to prevent crime, Giardino said. Other proactive approaches include: ensuring one’s home is secure before leaving it unattended, purchasing motion activated lights and/or installing a security system with a camera, and storing valuables in unexpected places.
End the cycle
According to Giardino, a large portion of the burglaries committed in Fulton County are related to drugs. Although he couldn’t provide data to support that claim, he said many of the reported incidents involve an individual resorting to crime in order to fuel a habit or addiction.
“Not every criminal is a drug addict, and not every drug addict is a criminal,” Giardino said. “Believe it or not, many of the cases are related to individuals stealing prescription drugs from their family members. When that happens, press charges because the court can divert them to our drug program to try to break the cycle. Studies show that it works to get them clean, keep them clean and it really benefits society, the person and their family.”
Giardino did provide data from the Fulton County Coroner’s Office Year End Report for 2016 that shows a spike win overdose-related deaths. In 2014, there were two overdose-related deaths; in 2015, five; and in 2016, nine. The majority of the deaths were related to heroin and Fentanyl. Giardino said he believes the opioid epidemic facing the nation is fueling crime and estimated that at least 35 percent of burglaries are drug related.