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Chief Of Police Plans To Expand Use of Social Media To Fight Crime

Police Chief Chris Perkins addresses city council and others.

by Valerie Garner

Superman and Spiderman are the crime fighting heroes of the past. Today’s heroes will be facebook and twitter. Roanoke City’s Chief of Police Chris Perkins plans to use the tools of technology to foil the foes of today.

The Roanoke City Police Department already has a twitter and facebook account but Perkins expects to be using the tools more frequently starting March 1. “We’re going to put out profiles on officers – profiles on cases – share information,” said Perkins.

Perkins said that fraud increased sixteen percent in 2010. Perkins attributes the increase primarily to computer fraud. An irresistible e-mail is delivered to the victim’s inbox with an enticing message saying, “click here to win your prize.” Before the vision of the newfound fortune fades to an empty reality the victim has entered his personal information. The perpetrator then empties his victim’s bank account before he releases the grip on his mouse.

In a briefing to Roanoke City Council Monday, Perkins had some good news–peppered with concerns over a 45 percent increase in domestic aggravated assaults for 2010. “A poor economy correlates with an increase in domestic assaults,” explained Perkins.

Child in Need of Services (CHINS) petitions were up 21 percent as well. Perkins said this increase was due to parental issues as arrest of juveniles was down.

Overall, aggravated assaults and homicides each were up twelve percent from 2009. Of the nine homicides in 2010 four were domestic related. Others were suspected to have involved drugs.

The good news is that overall crime is down four percent over 2009. In the past six years crime in Roanoke City has decreased twenty-three percent. Perkins humbly said, “that truly is [due to] this community  – we’ve had some changes in attitude – we have a lot more involvement.”

“Most of our criminals are opportunists,” said Perkins. Programs like “Lock it or Lose it” have made citizens aware that by simply locking their car and removing valuables, they can negate the opportunity of theft.

Perkins said, “it amazes me people will still pull up, park their car, leave everything sitting there with the car unlocked and walk away.” That is where the community can help eliminate larceny by removing the opportunity.

The sluggish economy has caused an increase in “white collar” crimes such as fraud, bribery and forgery. These categories increased from 673 in 2009 to 806 in 2010.

Increases in various crimes vary from one quadrant to another. For example, Southwest City had an increase in assault while Northwest had an increase in robberies. Perkins cautioned not to draw any conclusions based on the quadrant, “you’ve got to draw down to the raw numbers to say whether it is bad or good or other.” For example Southwest, had young people who were stealing mopeds. Mopeds are considered “vehicle theft.”

Cleared cases in 2010 have jumped an average of thirty-four percent since Perkins became Chief, with some recently solved arson cases taking the percentage even higher.

In answer to a question by council member Ray Ferris on recording incidents, Perkins explained that “we have guidelines set out in a booklet by the State Police that “tells us how to classify these offenses.”

Perkins stressed how across the nation there is under reporting of crime, especially in domestic abuse incidents. “We may have a problem. That’s why when we identified this [domestic] problem – it could be larger,” said Perkins.

Domestic violence issues will be a priority for Perkins this year. Other than correlating some increases to the economy, over eighty percent of crime is directly or indirectly related to drug activity. “Overall Roanoke is fortunate in being a safe city,” concluded Perkins.

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