The city of Gainesville’s crime statistics stayed about the same in 2007 as the previous year, with a low overall violent crime rate and a rise in business burglaries the only significant spike.
The number of violent crimes and property crimes are well below peak numbers for Gainesville from the late 1980s and early 1990s, reflecting a nationwide trend of declining crime rates over the past two decades.
Gainesville, with a population of roughly 35,000, had two murders, 19 sexual assaults and 110 aggravated assaults in 2007, numbers very close to the 2006 totals, according to statistics released this week by the Gainesville Police Department. The statistics are only for the city limits and do not include all of Hall County and crimes investigated by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2007, there were 167 burglaries of businesses, compared with 101 the previous year. Residential burglaries, at 124, stayed about the same as the previous year.
Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper attributed the rise in business burglaries to the work of a few burglary rings, one of which was broken up with the arrests of four people in November.
Other suspects in as many as 20 break-ins remain under investigation, Hooper said.
"You can have one group get out there and commit burglaries and really skew the statistics," Hooper said.
Lt. Brian Kelly said chain stores, including cell phone and furniture businesses, were targeted by burglars who struck stores with the same floor plans in other counties. The culprits are believed to be out-of-towners, Kelly said.
More recently, a ring of jewelry thieves hit Gainesville Jewelry on Jesse Jewell Parkway, taking several hundred thousand dollars in jewels. Three suspects in Lowndes County and two in Butts County were arrested Thursday in connection with the burglary.
"We’ve got some burglary rings, and we’re not seeing many of them that are local," Kelly said.
Other crimes saw moderate increases. There were six arsons in Gainesville in 2007, five more than the previous year. But none of the cases involved the burning of an occupied home, Kelly noted. In three of the cases, stolen cars were found burned.
Arsons in the city last year "seemed to be a means to cover up crimes," Kelly said.
The crime statistics compare favorably to the late 1980s, when there were fewer people and businesses in Gainesville. The city had 254 business burglaries in 1989 and 10 murders in 1991.
"I think it’s part of the national crime trend," Hooper said of the change in numbers over the years. "Crime is down nationally. Hopefully some of the things we’ve been doing are working. People are taking extra steps to prevent themselves from becoming victims."
Hooper encouraged citizens and business owners to sign up for the department’s free crime prevention seminars and on-site security assessments.
"We want the public to take advantage of the things we offer," Hooper said. "Every case, you take personal, and you try to think if there was anything you could have done to prevent it."