Criminal complaints on the rise in Buckhannon

Criminal reports in Buckhannon have nearly doubled during the past three years, according to information Police Chief Matt Gregory presented to the City Council Thursday.

Gregory said the number of reports in 2012 was the highest in his 16 years on the force. The three-year report revealing the rise was prepared by department secretary Jessica Jenkins and West Virginia Wesleyan College intern Kaitlyn Brown.

The number of criminal reports filed in 2010 was 343, according to Gregory. That number jumped to 551 the following year and to 641 in 2012. Many of those reports contained information related to multiple crimes. The number of criminal occurrences jumped from 479 in 2010 to 913 last year.

Felony arrests, however, are on the decline, according to the report. Officers made 170 such arrests in 2010 and 93 in 2012. There were 82 drug arrests, though Gregory said many of those offenses were compounded with charges such as shoplifting.

Misdemeanor charges are increasing during the time period of the study. There were 403 misdemeanor arrests in 2010 and 503 in 2012.

“My hat is off to our officers for all of the hard work that they do, especially in light of the fact that there’s an increase in criminal activities,” Gregory said. “They’re still clearing just as many (cases). They’re working harder with their investigations. They’re passionate about what they do.”

Traffic stops have also increased by about 700, Gregory said. He said the increase could be attributed to having more officers on the force. He said that many of the traffic stops did not result in officers issuing tickets.

The report also showed that 33 students, 21 of whom were from the college, took part in a pre-trial diversionary program for drug- and alcohol-related offenses that allows the charges to be expunged should they complete the program and remain out of trouble. Six of the participants were juveniles.

Survey results indicated that many of the participants had experimented with alcohol by the age of 15, while one student indicated it had happened at age 8. Eleven of the participants had experimented with drugs, and 15 came from a family with a history of drug and alcohol dependency.

Of those 33 students, 18 completed the program. Those who did not could have their charges reinstated.