Drug-related incidents helped boost Amherst police responses by 18 percent in 2015, according to a new report released Thursday.
Calls for service and enforcement hit their highest point since 2009 — up more than 2,600 in a single year.
Police chief Joseph Kucirek noted the heroin epidemic was behind a 96 percent jump in thefts, saying addicts resorted to shoplifting to fund their habits.
Drug offenses overall skyrocketed by 150 percent even as liquor offenses dropped by more than a third, according to the report.
It was released to the News-Times nearly a year after our first request for the document, produced annually to give a statistical look at crime trends citywide.
Kucirek said creation of the report was delayed by problems converting early 2015 statistical data to the police station’s new records-keeping system.
Police use the data themselves for “directed patrol enforcement.” The term describes how officers are strategically assigned to frequent areas where certain types of crime are common — such as commercial areas plagued by thefts.
The data, now a year old, paints a picture of the social ills in the sleepy bedroom community of Amherst.
Here is a quick look at some of the most profound trends:
• Criminal arrests were up by 57 percent from the previous two years.
• Criminal offenses were dominated by 333 drug arrests with 153 thefts coming in second place and disorderly conduct in third with 47.
• Domestic violence arrests increased by 31 percent.
• Concealed weapon charges blew up by 180 percent. “This also may be a combination of a changing society as well as more aggressive investigative enforcement in certain situations,” Kucirek wrote.
• All other weapons violations rose by a massive 345 percent.
• Use of force incidents were up 13 percent (from 15 to 17). While still lower than the 31 incidents recorded in 2012, use of force has steadily increased in the last few years.
The bulk in 2015 involved an officer showing his firearm, using a stun gun, or throwing a non-cooperative suspect off balance. More than two-thirds came on the overnight shift and more than half were in parking lots or yards on the city’s northern border with Lorain.
Officers are continually trained in how to deescalate dangerous situations but use of force is “something that we have little or no control over,” Kucirek wrote.
None of the 2015 incidents were deemed unjustified.
• Curfew violations were up 123 percent over the previous two years.
• Traffic arrests were up by 27 percent from 2014.
• Speeding citations were up but police generally feel warnings are more effective than tickets in most situations. Warnings, both verbal and written, were up 33 percent over 2014 and 2,000 percent since 2009.
• Crashes were down three percent to 411, at their lowest point since 2009. Of those, 40 involved injuries.
• Overall, traffic citations and criminal charges were up 40 percent from 2014 and at their highest number since 2010.
Kucirek said some of the increases were due to officers being more vigilant. But “the changing society and epidemics in our area” were also strongly noted.
The report said officers would focus in 2016 on training to handle high-risk, low-frequency events that could cost the city in lives or lawsuits.
Among them were use of force, firearms training, pursuits and emergency vehicle operations, naloxone usage, searches and seizures during arrests, domestic violence, and care and custody of prisoners.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.