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Stats show violent crime increase, property crime decrease in Gainesville
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Crime data

Gainesville

• 2014 violent crimes reported: 131

• 2015 violent crimes reported: 150

• Change: 14.5 percent increase

• 2014 property crimes reported: 1,492

• 2015 property crimes reported: 1,345

• Change: 9.9 percent decrease 

Hall County

• 2014 violent crimes reported: 177

• 2015 violent crimes reported: 188

• Change: 6.2 percent increase

• 2014 property crimes reported: 1,935

• 2015 property crimes reported: 1,766

• Change: 8.7 percent decrease

The data-driven nature of modern policing is a far cry from what Gainesville Police Chief Carol Martin and Sgt. Kevin Holbrook when coming up the ranks.

“Policing today is very different then it was when she and I were on the road. We used to get in a patrol car, and you’d just go ride in a district and answer calls,” Holbrook said.

“And you didn’t leave your district,” Martin interjected.

The FBI released its annual report of nationwide crime, which showed an uptick in violent crimes.

“After two years of decline, the estimated number of violent crimes in the nation increased 3.9 percent in 2015 when compared with 2014 data,” according to FBI press release released last month.

Property crimes nationwide dropped 2.6 percent, a trend that has continued for more than a decade, according to the FBI statistics.

In Gainesville, the statistics run parallel to the trends seen nationwide. There was a 14.5 percent increase in violent crimes reported, going from 131 reports in 2014 to 150 reports. The city also saw a 9.9 percent decrease in property crimes, as the department took in 147 fewer reports in 2015 from the 1,492 total reports seen in 2014.

The department didn’t have a specific reason to point to for the uptick in violent crime.

“Dope, heroin, meth. If people are on something, then they need … another high. They’ll do what they have to do to get it,” Martin said.

The rates seen in 2015 for Gainesville are still lower than they were a decade ago. Back in 2007, Gainesville had 184 violent crimes reported and 1,494 property crimes.

“Looking at the numbers, those that we have somewhat control over have consistently gone down over the years,” Holbrook said. “When we look at persons crimes, those are things that are very difficult for us to control or predict.”

The department holds monthly meetings to assess crime trends, where officers share intel on what they’ve seen out on the roads.

Areas showing a higher rate of burglaries and car break-ins will be the next focus for the night shift, Martin said,

“The more blue lights you have going in an area, either for traffic crashes and crime, usually whichever you’re trying to reduce, the crime will hopefully go down in that area,” Martin said.

Speaking to the importance of community relations, Holbrook said the trust with citizens is paramount in bringing people to justice.

“Just this week alone, someone had information on the whereabouts of Darvis Bledson and they came forward with that information,” Holbrook said.

Gainesville Police suspect Bledson in the fatal shooting of Terry Jerome Maddox, 30, last month on Athens Street.

Looking at property crimes, Martin pointed to changes in how pawn shops operate and what may possibly deter criminals from selling stolen items.

In 2012, the Gainesville City Council passed an ordinance requiring pawnbrokers to keep electronically-documented records.

Items sold were in a database, and the individuals in the pawnshops were photographed and fingerprinted.

Police can now type in what they believe is stolen to see if it has been pawned.

“Before it would be a thousand pieces of paper at each location,” Martin said. “That gives us the ability for not only here but anyplace else that uses that same type of software.”

Gus Marroquin, owner of Pappy’s Pawn in Gainesville, said he believes it has lowered the number of people bringing stolen items to pawn shops.

“If it happens, they’re flushing the stuff at flea markets and other stuff, but not pawn shops,” he said.

At Pawn International on Atlanta Highway, owner Don Scott he hasn’t seen much of a change. Being a mom-and-pop shop, he said he can’t afford to have people try and bring stolen items.

“It’s my money I’m putting out, so I’ve always since day one qualified a loan at the counter for doing anything,” Scott said.

Referring back to her time supervising investigations, Martin said she encourages her officers to treat each case equally, even if “it’s a push lawnmower.”

“That might be that person’s sole source of going out for cutting grass to make a little extra money,” Martin said. “That’s taken from him, so what’s he going to do now? It puts him into a spiral, so he’s going to have to do something else, and it might not be legal.”

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