THE INDEPENDENT NEWS
COURTHOUSE — Police Chief Jim Cervera said there was an increase in the number of rapes in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year, and he said police also are concerned about a rise in the number of motor vehicle thefts and larcenies from cars.
Through June 30, 102 rapes were reported compared to 75 through the same period in 2015. The victim knew the alleged offender in 78 percent of the rape cases reported between Jan. 1 and June 30, according to the chief’s presentation, and the relationship between offender and victim was unknown in 17 percent of the cases.
Cervera spoke during a work session for the city council on Tuesday, July 12.
Cervera also discussed efforts by police that helped save lives in a number of heroin cases. Police have been carrying antidote kits that police officers used succesfully 26 times since Jan. 1. Overall, there have been 136 documented heroin overdoses, including 21 deaths, this year through July 4.
Cervera also discussed issues covered during the town hall in Blackwater this past month, which focused in part upon concerns about property crimes in and around Pungo and the southernmost, rural reaches.
“What we’re seeing in those patrol zones are what we’re finding throughout the city,” Cervera said.
Larcenies from motor vehicles have risen in the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2015 from 1,474 to 1,748, while some types of larcenies, including those from buildings or shoplifting, declined. Additionally, motor vehicle thefts have increased from 184 to 242, or by 31.5 percent, from the first six months of 2015 to the same period in 2016.
The department launched a campaign to encourage residents to lock vehicles and ensure there are no valuables left inside the, as well as keys that make thefts easy or weapons. Guns then enter what police Capt. David Squires, commanding officer of the First Precinct, has called “the criminal economy” during meetings with the community.
Cervera said the “Beep It To Keep It” campaign is a reminder of a way to limit crimes of opportunity. “Our best defense for this is for folks to ‘Beep It To Keep It’ and call us when they see something,” he said.
On average, three out of four thefts from and of automobiles earlier this year in the city’s south involved unlocked cars. Some had spare keys inside the vehicle.
The chief’s presentation also contained a sobering reminder of the dangers officers face here in Virginia Beach.
“Officers are interacting with a lot of armed individuals,” he said, adding later that officer have confiscated 373 guns.
He also discussed perceptions of police and efforts by the department to tell the public about their work in the community, in part, through social media.
“You will see in the media constantly when officers use force,” he said. “What you don’t see is when they do not use force.”
The chief said incidents in which officers use force are a small part of the tens of thousands of interactions Virginia Beach police officers have with citizens, often under stressful conditions.
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