Reported crime edges up in 2013, Lafayette Police claim

Crime reported in Lafayette crept up in 2013, led by increases in robberies, auto thefts and aggravated rapes, according to Lafayette Police Department figures.

“Of course we’re disappointed,” Police Chief Jim Craft said Monday after the numbers were released.

Lafayette did have two fewer murders in 2013, dropping from 12 to 10.

Craft said 2013 was looking like a better year for public safety, with total crime staying below 2012 numbers for most of the year. Then in the fall, crime started ramping up, he said.

“And that level (of crime) maintained itself through the remainder of the year,” Craft said.

Some of the year-to-year numbers show problem areas: Aggravated rape increased 55 percent, going from 11 reported in 2012 to 17 last year. Aggravated rape is defined as rape by force or with a weapon, or sexual assault on a person 13 or younger.

Other crimes that showed an increase: robberies, up 35 percent from 202 in 2012 to 272 last year; vehicle thefts showed a large jump, up 23 percent with 297 in 2013; and last year’s number of nonvehicle thefts, from shoplifts to pickpockets and other thievery, increased 14 percent to 5,995.

Craft said another trend that disturbed him was the number of calls Lafayette police received reporting crimes, which declined 45 percent in 2013 to 134,406. The number of calls coming from residents in 2012 was 243,020, according to the figures.

“We want citizens to call us,” Craft said.

There were some areas of improvement.

Arrests of individuals age 18 and younger went down 16 percent, from 1,177 in 2012 to 994 last year. And adult arrests also were down, sliding 4 percent from 2012 to 2013, the figures show.

Craft said detectives have made arrests in all 10 of the homicides.

A look backward at Lafayette crime since 2009 shows some improvements over five years. There were 433 auto thefts in 2009 compared with 241 last year, a 44 percent decline over five years. And assaults fell 7 percent over the same period, records show.

Murders, meanwhile, have surged and receded from year to year since 2008, when there were 11 homicides.

In 2009, there were eight; in 2010, there were 12; in 2011, six, which doubled to 12 in 2012.

The numbers also show there’s been a drastic improvement during the last five years in reported rapes. In 2009, some 33 victims reported they were raped, a number that grew to 35 in 2010. Last year’s 17 reported rapes represents an almost 50 percent decline from 2010.

“That’s a really remarkable decrease in a short period of time,” said Burk Foster, head of the Criminal Justice Department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Foster conceded that rape is a crime that often goes unreported, whether it’s in Lafayette or Los Angeles, with studies showing 25 percent to 40 percent of the sexual attacks are not brought to the attention of police.

Still, Foster said, Lafayette’s downward trend in those reporting rapes over the past five years is encouraging.

Foster teaches undergraduate and graduate-level criminal justice classes at UL-Lafayette, and has studied crime across the nation and how Lafayette and the rest of the South ranks.

Among seven large Louisiana municipalities — New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Lafayette and Monroe — Lafayette is one of the safest, Foster said.

And the U.S. itself is significantly safer than it was in the mid-1990s, except in certain pockets where violent crime rates have stubbornly stayed the same, he said.

“For the most part, nationwide, all forms of violent crime have declined sharply over the last 20 years,” Foster said.

“The murder rate now, nationwide, is about half of what it was 20 years ago.”

During the same period, the number of reported rapes in the U.S. fell 38 percent, he said.