Even as Baytown continues to add people, homes and businesses at breakneck speed, one statistic is keeping a steady downward trend — the number of reported crimes.
At the end of the first quarter, the number of crimes reported so far in 2019 put the city on track to meet or beat a historic low achieved in 2017. Now with six months tallied, the first half of the year is still showing fewer reported crimes than the first six months of either 2017 or 2018.
Using the crime numbers reported for the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, Baytown reported 1,541 crimes in the first half of 2017 and 2,966 for that year. In 2018, there were 1,542 crimes reported for the first half of the year, and 3,193 for the year.
In the first half of 2019, there were 1,460 reported crimes.
The Uniform Crime Report does not include all crimes, but instead is a snapshot of several key crime categories. Those categories are murder, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft/larceny and auto theft.
Each is tightly defined so that reporting is uniform across the country.
For the first half of the year, the decline is across each of those categories except for aggravated assault, which increased from 73 in 2018 to 76 in 2019.
Like much of the country, Baytown has seen a steady reduction in crime over the last 30 years. In 1990, there were 6,054 reported crimes — the number has been roughly half of that number for the last five years, in spite of the city being much larger in both population and land area.
Baytown police spokesman Lt. Steve Dorris said there is no single explanation for the reduction in crime.
“It’s more community
involvement — people calling us and reporting crimes; it’s businesses taking steps to prevent themselves from being targets of crime; it’s citizens taking steps to prevent themselves from being targets of crime.
One thing the police department does, Dorris said, is to look at suspects in crimes to see if they have links to other crimes also. “If we can link this suspect to as many cases as we can, the chances of him going to prison are much greater.”
Dorris said a continuing concern is the number of auto thefts, particularly on the north end of town where there are many hotels and businesses with large parking lots that have easy access to Interstate 10. “It’s an extremely target-rich environment for auto thieves.”
“Our Special Operations Unit has been working tirelessly over the past several months trying to identify groups that are involved in mass auto thefts. Over the past probably three weeks they’ve arrested somewhere in the neighborhood of nine or 10 people and they’ve recovered 12 or 13 stolen vehicles, seizing drugs and guns and stuff like that.”
Also, he said, easy freeway access contributes to the concentration of shoplifting thefts at the big box stores along Interstate 10 and Garth Road. Some shoplifters are local, but others travel the freeway corridor, often hitting different locations of specific chains, like Ulta, Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowes.
City Manager Rick Davis complimented the achievements in crime reduction, saying, “Safety is so fundamental to quality of life; and the positive impacts of our community involvement via such programs as Neighborhood Watch, as well as our investments in law enforcement, are really beginning to pay significant dividends to the citizens.”
• Murder. There were four murders reported in the first six months of 2017, two in 2018 and none in 2019.
Dorris explained that even if the May death of Baytown resident Pamela Turner is ultimately determined by a court to be a murder, that police-involved deaths are reported separately, so it would not be included in this report.
“That’s not Baytown PD,” he said. “That’s the FBI and the state. That’s their rules for how we report crime. We have zero control over that.”
“They have specific ways that they track officer-involved incidents. They’re tracked; they’re just tracked differently so they can keep an accurate account of those incidents.”
• Sexual assault. There were 23 sexual assaults reported in the first six months of 2017; 20 in 2018; and 17 in 2019.
• Robbery. There were 63 reported robberies in the first six months of 2017; 56 in 2018; and 47 in 2019.
• Aggravated assault. There were 74 reported aggravated assaults in the first six months of 2017; 73 in 2018; and 76 in 2019.
• Burglary. There were 275 reported burglaries in the first six months of 2017; 203 in 2018; and 180 in 2019.
• Theft/Larceny. There were 941 reported thefts in the first six months of 2017; 951 in 2018; and 923 in 2019.
• Auto thefts. There were 161 reported auto thefts in the first six months of 2017; 237 in 2018; and 217 in 2019.