Statistics reported out of several lakes area communities indicate that crimes of the most serious nature declined during 2011. For the most part, thefts continue to challenge law enforcement officials. Several lakes area police chiefs cite unemployment and crime sprees involving copper thefts as two reasons for a relatively high number of larceny and burglary incidents last year. Communities with an increase in assault statistics still attribute a large proportion of those to domestic violence cases, prompted in part by the challenges associated with financial duress.
Local police annually compile criminal activity statistics and forward them to the Michigan State Police, which in turn sends the figures to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Index crimes, formally known as Part 1 or Part A crimes, are considered to be the most severe. They include homicide, criminal sexual conduct (CSC I and II), all assaults, burglary, vehicle theft, arson, larceny, and robbery.
The local crime statistics cited in this special report can be misleading. For example, if a community had one homicide in 2010, but reported two in 2011, that would account for a 100 percent hike in murder, though there was actually just one additional incident.
What follows is a breakdown of 2011 index crime statistics reported by lakes area public safety agencies, and the trends observed in each community. Commerce Township and Highland Township crime stats from last year weren’t available prior to press time; watch for a subsequent report on those communities’ 2011 index crime statistics.
Overall index crime figures rose over the last year in Orchard Lake Village in comparison to 2010, with the exception of vehicle thefts, resulting in a 23 percent rise overall.
There were 46 larcenies reported in 2011 compared to 38 in 2010. Assaults rose slightly from 11 in 2010 to 13 in 2011. In 2010, five burglaries were reported, compared to 9 in 2011.
According to Orchard Lake Police Chief Joe George, the overall increase in index crimes was negligible.
“I don’t get excited if it goes up or down because we’re in a low crime area,” George said. “These numbers fluctuate marginally in smaller communities.”
As far as trends go, George said copper thefts are still on the rise, along with retail larcenies.
“A couple observations include houses for sale where perpetrators grab copper and items like that,” he said. “Many of our larcenies occur at the Salvation Army store, where people leave their purses in their basket and their wallets are stolen. That could be controlled if they keep a better eye on their property.”
The city of Walled Lake experienced a 31.6 percent drop in total index crimes last year. Police Chief Paul Shakinas cites a positive attitude in the community and proactive law enforcement efforts as the means toward mitigating serious crime.
“There is less hopelessness in the community — that has really changed in the last year,” he said. “Not only are things better at home, but we’ve had a lot of cooperation within the community and our officers have been proactive. I like to think that these factors contribute.”
Crime dropped in every category in Walled Lake, apart from robberies, which remained stagnant. For example, larcenies fell from 141 in 2010 to 97 in 2011, and assaults decreased by 26 percent overall.
“The only thing we’ve seen rise is identity theft, which is skyrocketing,” Shakinas said. “The majority of these crimes are Internet related so we’re unsure if we can get a handle on them other than public awareness.”
Shakinas said he has concerns over the prevalence of heroin being sold and used in the community. One case that Shakinas applauds his officers for involved a drug and assault incident in July on Oakshade. Apparently a heroin dealer came into the city to collect a debt and the drug user hit the dealer with a hammer several times. When the drug dealer was released from the hospital, he returned with his cronies to badly beat the drug user with golf clubs.
“Everyone was taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault,” Shakinas said. “They are all still incarcerated. Kudos to our men and women here who did a great job, including the detectives who did the follow up.”
The city of Wixom realized an overall increase of 20 percent in 2011 index crime incidents.
“We are always concerned about any crime in our community and the increase across the board,” said Clarence Goodlein, the city’s public safety director.
Each index crime category rose last year in Wixom, except for criminal sexual assaults (CSC I and CSC II). Last year larcenies, reported at 183 in 2010, rose to 230. Larcenies have been a priority concern in the city, especially at the apartments and businesses.
“Most are from motor vehicles or unattended vehicles and we’ve had difficulty, as have other agencies, in being continually effective in preventing these types of crimes,” Goodlein said.
He added that these car hopping crimes tend to be geographic, starting in one area and moving to another concentrated spot.
“Overwhelmingly (in these cases) the cars were unlocked and valuables were left inside,” he said. “We try to encourage people to keep their cars locked.”
Other larcenies are the direct result of the surge in copper thefts that impacted the lakes area last year.
“I attribute these to the types of businesses here — light to medium manufacturing, and many that deal in metals,” Goodlein said. “These thieves look for any type of scrap metal to sell. The places that accept these metals are culpable, too.”
Assaults increased over 15 percent, with 146 reported in 2011 compared to 126 the year prior. Goodlein said he attributes the majority of those incidents to domestic situations.
“Sadly, many must be attributed to domestic violence, be that a boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, or involving an old boyfriend,” Goodlein said. “It’s very difficult to decrease those numbers. We tried effective living classes a few years ago, but didn’t get the attendance. I’m as frustrated as everyone else with these types of crimes.”
Crime fell in virtually every category from 2010 to 2011 in the bedroom community of Wolverine Lake. CSC crimes and vehicle thefts held steady and low.
Larcenies fell slightly, with 60 reported in 2010 compared to 47 in 2011. Wolverine Lake Police Captain John Ellsworth noted a string of larcenies last fall, so he reinforced patrol efforts.
“We got hit for two weeks, but controlled it by adding patrol to the midnight shift and by being aggressive,” he said. “Then, the problem went away.”
Assaults also dropped from 43 in 2010 to 27 reported in 2011.
Ellsworth said he attributes the positive turn of events to his officers.
“Our officers are much more visible than they were previously,” he said. “They take personal ownership in the department and I appreciate that.”
Waterford Township is one of the area communities that saw a drop in serious crimes during 2011 in comparison to 2010 figures, totaling a 5.9 percent overall decline in index crimes.
Assaults, larcenies and robberies all declined last year, but there was a slight uptick in CSCs, burglaries, vehicle thefts and arsons.
CSCs rose by 8.3 percent in 2011, when 65 were reported compared to 60 in 2010. Burglaries increased from 395 in 2010 to 472 in 2011, or a 19.5 percent hike. Vehicle thefts went up 25.5 percent in 2011, when 123 were reported compared to 98 in 2010. Arson incidents rose from 7 in 2010 to 16 in 2011.
Police Chief Dan McCaw attributes these increases to several factors.
“Crime in those categories increased because people are out of employment, and the state and county are forced to release prisoners,” he said.
McCaw added that crime is compounded when law enforcement staffing numbers are down and are expected to decline over time.
“There’s not enough to address criminals,” he said. “With reduced funds, there’s been a reduction in police of 3,000 in the state that may level out, but we could see up to 4,000 officers lost.”
One trend officers are observing is the criminal demographic has changed due to more people being unemployed and struggling financially.
“We’re noticing an influx of older criminals,” McCaw said. “Before they were in the younger bracket and now we’re seeing 50, 60, and 70-year-olds committing crimes while trying to pay bills and supplementing lost revenues.”
According to McCaw, criminals have accomplices now more than ever.
“The big thing we’ve identified is that more are working in groups to commit retail fraud, burglaries or larcenies,” he said.
McCaw cites proactive citizens as playing a large role in mitigating crime in the township.
“We’re doing pretty good police work with the help of citizens,” he said. “Policing is a partnership and there’s been a bigger influx of people calling us or apprising us of suspicious actions, which gives us a lot better chance in catching suspects.”
Assaults decreased in the township by 13 percent in 2011, when 755 were reported compared to 869 in 2010. Larcenies dipped 12.4 percent from 2010, when 1,189 were reported compared to 1,041 in 2011. Robberies dropped from 61 in 2010 to 48 in 2011, a decrease of 21.3 percent.
WHITE LAKE TOWNSHIP
White Lake Township saw a decrease in the number of assaults, burglaries/home invasions, and larcenies in 2011 compared to 2010 figures.
Assaults were down 15 percent, with 218 occurring in 2011 as opposed to the 258 that took place in 2010.
Meanwhile, burglary/home invasion crimes also saw a decline of 27 percent, with 66 taking place in 2011 as opposed to 99 a year ago.
Larcenies were also down with 396 being committed last year compared to 438 in 2010, for a decline of almost 10 percent.
According to Police Chief Ed Harris, crime in White Lake Township is down overall.
“I’d like to tell you it’s all about our enforcement efforts, but I’m not sure that’s the case,” he said. “I think it’s really a combination of things — timing, our enforcement efforts, and the type of community we live in.”
Harris said the aggressiveness of the White Lake Police Department in being visible in the community, as well as the people in the community looking out for each other played roles in improved 2011 index crime rates.
The biggest percentage change was found in the arson category, with a 300 percent increase last year. In 2010, there was just one arson compared to the four that took place in 2011. However, two of those arsons occurred at the same residence, according to Harris.
“We’re kind of focusing the investigation on a certain individual in that case,” he said. “When an arson happens twice, it’s suspicious in nature.”
That same residence, located on Union Lake Road just north of St. Patrick Parish, was the site of another fire on Wednesday, March 21.
While crime statistics for White Lake decreased overall last year, Harris said that in some categories crime did increase.
“Overall the crime statistics are down, but we are all still busy,” he said.
While the Highland Township crime statistics for 2011 were unavailable by press time, Sergeant Matt Snyder, commander of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department Highland Substation, said the 2011 statistics will be “pretty consistent” with those of 2010.
Snyder attributes this consistency to the scant change in the township’s population.
“Over the last two years, our community hasn’t changed much,” he said. “We’ve stayed the same as far as population goes.”
WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP
West Bloomfield experienced a decrease in larcenies in 2011 at a total of 572, down from 609 in 2010 and from 576 in 2009.
West Bloomfield also saw a slight increase in burglaries in 2011, with 176 reported. That number was up from 143 reported in 2010, after 181 were reported in 2009.
The township also reported 308 assaults in 2011, down from 324 assaults in 2010 and 380 in 2009.
After only one robbery was reported in 2010, there were eight robberies/car-jackings reported in 2011, which was the same number reported in 2009.
The township also saw the number of forcible sex offenses decrease from 11 in 2010 to 10 in 2011, which was also down from the 23 cases reported in 2009.
Vehicle thefts in the township also decreased from 30 reported in 2010 to 19 reported in 2011, which was the same number reported in 2009.
There were also two arsons reported in the township last year, down from 8 in 2010.
Just as in 2010, there was one homicide in the township last year, when 17-year-old Walled Lake resident Johnathan Rickman died as a result of a stab wound suffered at a party that took place at a residence on Rafford Lane on June 4.
A jury found 16-year-old Leonard White guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Dec. 12, and he was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
Overall, the township saw 1,684 arrests in 2011, which was down from 1,788 arrests made in 2010, 1,958 in 2009, and 2,072 in 2008.
“In general, I think when you see the fluctuation, West Bloomfield is an extremely safe place to work, visit and live,” said Police Chief Michael Patton. “When it gets down to specifics, there was a periodic spike in home invasions, but most of them were in abandoned or foreclosed homes where suspects broke in and were taking precious metals, and we caught a majority of the suspects.”
The Milford Police Department’s 2011 crime statistics reveal a decrease in almost all major crimes categories.
Larcenies reported in 2011 totaled 100, down from 159 in 2010; while burglaries reported in 2011 totaled 36, down from 53 in 2010.
Auto thefts reported in 2011 totaled five, down from six in 2010. There were two arsons reported in Milford last year, compared to none in 2010.
There were six aggravated assaults reported in 2011, compared to 9 in 2010.
CSC cases remained constant in 2011 with six reported, after five were reported in 2010.
Milford only reported one robbery in 2011, the same number as 2010, and there were no homicides in Milford last year, marking the second year in a row that Milford hasn’t seen a homicide.
Milford reported 156 index crimes in 2011, down from 233 in 2010 and 164 crimes in 2009.
“Overall, it’s very encouraging,” said Lieutenant Michael Lauridsen, Milford’s interim police chief. “Our numbers are down significantly in the major crime categories. I think our officers are being proactive with their patrols. Things come and go in cycles and it’s hard to pinpoint why. But, we just have to be glad that they are and hopefully it stays that way.”
Lauridsen added that Milford doesn’t have a crime prevention officer and said that despite that, the department’s officers and detectives are doing their jobs in following up with cases and doing a great job solving them.
Staff writers Angela Niemi and Michael Shelton contributed to this report.