COVINGTON - Violent crime decreased by 29 percent in the city of Covington between 2007 and 2008, according to statistics released Monday by the FBI, while property crimes increased by 10 percent over the same period.
Violent crime - broken into the categories of murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault - showed the biggest decline in rapes, which were down by 50 percent. There were 10 forcible rapes reported in the city in 2007, compared to five in 2008.
Murder increased in the city in 2008, going from zero in 2007 to two in 2008. In addition, robberies were down by 32 percent, from 34 to 23, and aggravated assaults were down by 27 percent, from 33 to 24.
Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton said his department makes an effort to deal with violent crime at the earliest incidence before there is an opportunity for it to escalate.
"The Covington Police Department has always worked really hard to deal with the domestic violence issues when they occur and any other violent crime issues when they occur and make cases - not just separate the parties," he said.
Property crimes were up overall by 10 percent in 2008, with the greatest percentage increase in burglaries at 14 percent. Burglaries increased by a total of 34, from 194 in 2007 to 228 in 2008.
Larceny/theft showed an increase of 9 percent in 2008, a jump of 55 cases. Motor vehicle thefts increased by 1, from 53 to 54.
There were no arsons reported in the city in 2007 or 2008.
Cotton said it is typical for crime rates to fluctuate year to year and it is difficult to tie those fluctuations to particular factors. Cotton said crime rates may be affected by changes in population, better crime reporting and perhaps the economy, although he said his department has not seen the economy as an influence in Covington.
He also noted that most crimes are committed by the same 10 percent of the population, which means that crime rates can be affected by the number of criminals who are incarcerated at any given time.
"A large release of individuals can impact crime levels," he said.
He pointed to Georgia's "three strikes" legislation that requires criminals convicted of three prior felonies to serve their full sentences without parole. Cotton said release of those first convicted under that legislation began about 12 months ago and will continue.
"'Three strikes and you're out' sounded really good," Cotton said, "but the unintended consequence is that when they've done their full time and they have been released, they are out without any supervision."