Heroin has a lot to do with an increase in crime in Janesville last year.
That’s the opinion of Police Chief Dave Moore, who released the 2017 crime statistics Wednesday.
The city’s crime rate dropped in each of the two previous years, but it jumped by 11.5 percent in 2017.
Property crimes—burglary, theft, car theft and arson—were a major driver of the increase. Together, they increased about 10.5 percent.
Moore noted people need a lot of money to maintain a drug habit, and many commit crimes to get the money.
Police pulled a random sample of people arrested for theft last year and found 61 percent had been involved in drug crimes. Another random sample of people arrested for drug offenses found 47 percent had been involved in property crimes.
An officer who works with addicts estimated 90 percent of them committed crimes to support their habits, Moore said.
Moore said the epidemic of addiction to heroin and associated drugs continues to be a major problem here. He noted Janesville set a record with 14 overdose deaths from heroin and other opiates last year. Police know of 48 other opiate overdoses in which the victims survived.
So far this year, police already have seen 14 opiate overdoses, three of those resulting in death.
Overdoses of all kinds, which include alcohol and other non-opiate drugs, were the highest in at least five years, at 201.
Another factor that drives up property crimes is the large commercial district on Milton Avenue and Highway 14, which draws thieves from nearby Interstate 90/39, Moore said.
Violent crime went up even more steeply than the overall crime rate, but most of the increase was because the federal government changed its definition of rape, which shifted previously reported sexual assaults into the rape category, Moore said.
The city did see two homicides in 2017, the first crimes of that kind since 2014. Moore pointed out that neither the suspect nor the victim in the shooting homicide in May were from Janesville, and the suspect in a stabbing homicide in December had recently moved to the city.
Moore was not highly concerned about the one-year uptick in crime here.
“These are still historically low crime rates for this community,” he said.
Moore pointed to statistics for the past 25 years, which shows a general downward trend. The rate in 1993, for example, was more than 7,000 crimes per 100,000 population. That number for 2017 was 3,357.
National and state crime rates also have declined over those years.
Moore said Janesville is a community that by and large trusts the police and will report minor crimes more frequently than in many other communities, which tends to inflate some crime statistics.
Other statistics from the 2017 crime report:
- Calls for service were up 6 percent, from 64,473 in 2016 to 68,373.
- Arrests increased 2 percent, from 4,270 to 4,378.
- Arrests of juveniles increased 10 percent, from 924 to 1,019.
- Traffic accidents with injuries were down 17 percent, from 301 to 250.
- Burglaries were up 22 percent, from 234 to 286.
- Fireworks complaints declined 15 percent, from a five-year high of 270 in 2016 to 229.
- Intoxicated driving declined 4 percent, from 268 to 258.
- Sex offenses of all kinds declined 18 percent, from 190 to 155.
- Shots-fired reports declined 16 percent, from 45 to 38.
- Stabbings were down by half, from eight to four.
- Thefts increased 11 percent, from 1,143 to 1,265.
- Vandalism incidents were up 4 percent, from 597 to 621.