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Most major crimes decline in county

By By Sherry Digmon
Escambia County (Ala.) law enforcement authorities report a downward trend in most major crimes in the area.
Most noteworthy is that just one murder has been committed in county in the past 21 months. Since the crime remains unsolved, no murders have been bound over to the grand jury this year.
District Attorney Mike Godwin said the lack of murders may not be for lack of trying. Godwin cites several attempted murder cases during the past 21 months.
"I don't necessarily know that violent crimes are down," he said. "It may be good fortune that people were not killed. Of the eight or 10 attempts we've had, it's fortunate that people survived their injuries."
Sheriff Tim Hawsey said there's not much middle ground when it comes to murders in the county. Typically, there are either none, one or two, or several.
"I have found in my years in law enforcement that crime is cyclical," Hawsey said. "We've had a year or a year and a half without a murder, then we have seven or eight the next year. It runs in cycles. We either have several or not any."
Atmore Police Chief Danny McKinley said one murder inside the city limits is about average in a year, if there are any at all. The one murder in the county this year occurred in March when Issac C. Jackson of Atmore was assaulted at a party at the North Main Trailer Park. The cause of death was blunt trauma to the head.
Though several people were at the party, no one could tell Atmore police anything about the incident. The murder remains unsolved.
Overall, however, McKinley is encouraged by the imrprovement of most crime statistics.
"Petty crimes are consistent, but major crimes are down," McKinley said. "This year has been relatively quiet as far as major assaults. Burglaries and theft-related cases are down, not drastically, but lower than normal."
McKinley sees the decrease in crime within Atmore as the result of a consorted effort of the department.
"Our officers are visible, and we're getting perpetrators off the streets," he said.
Godwin said the number of people arrested for armed robberies is down, although the actual number of robberies may not be much lower than in the past.
"In 1997 and 1998, we had a rash of armed robberies of gas stations by carloads of young people 15 to 20 years old," Godwin said. "It was robbery by the carload. We had 20 to 30 defendants charged with robbery at that time."
Godwin said that while the number of robbery cases may be down this year, the cases do not involve as many people as past cases did.
Hawsey said he has seen the number of robberies decrease over the last three or four months, more so than in the six months prior to that.
Sexual assault crimes are harder to track.
"People don't always come forward in these cases," Godwin said. "I can't say the cases are down. There are always some unreported cases."
Hawsey said his department seems to be working more of these cases as of late, and certainly more than when he took office 17 years ago.
Many crimes stem from drug use and sales, but the 21st Judicial Drug Task Force has made strides in that area. Godwin said he is seeing a downward trend in drug abuse, another good sign.
"We're doing a better job in the classrooms and at home," he said. "Reports show fewer people abusing drugs. Abuse seems to be going into a lower cycle.
"A lot of people turn to drug abuse and trafficking to make a few bucks and escape circumstances."
A hundred experts could give a hundred reasons why major crimes are down. Godwin has watched the trend for 25 years and has a theory of his own.
"I certainly want to think people in the county are finding the means of dealing with their problems," he said. "I really think the economy is a major factor.
"Jobs are there. Money is there. Financial problem aren't as great. People have a sense of well-being. People don't feel as much frustration as they did seven or eight years ago."