What does crime look like in Amherst?
Drugs, alcohol, and thefts were common issues handled by local police in 2016, according to a statistical report released at the tail end of 2017.
The numbers, which are the most recent available, offer an insight into the city’s social ills and how law enforcement adapts its response to trends in crime. For example, Amherst police made 674 arrests in 2016 and by far the most frequent charges — 189 total — stemmed from drug offenses.
Lt. Mark Cawthon noted in the annual report that police responded to a spike in opioid overdose calls. Police handled 30 throughout the year and used the life-saving drug naloxone on patients 19 times, more than double the prior year.
Officers started carrying naloxone in 2013 as part of Project Dawn (they were not legally allowed to before that year) and have deployed the drug more and more each year to revive blue-lipped overdose victims.
Drunk driving is also a huge problem in Amherst, according to the data. There were 54 charges brought for operating vehicles while intoxicated, coupled with 37 more for blood alcohol content over the legal limit of .08 percent.
Other common crimes:
• 50 charges of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.
• 22 charges of domestic violence.
• 32 charges of carrying a concealed weapon.
There is some good news.
Police were worried in 2015 by a glaring number of thefts. “We know that the vast majority of the thefts were a direct result of those with opiate addictions wanting to get money for their next ‘fix,’” chief Joseph Kucirek wrote. “Many of those thefts came in the form of shoplifting from major retailers in the city.”
So Amherst police adjusted in 2016, identifying the top five or six locations most hit by thieves. Officers increased foot patrols at local businesses and as a result thefts dropped by 69 percent — down from 153 to 47 — the lowest theft rate in four years.
Directed patrols were also used at the Amherst Schools. Officers ramped up their presence there not only to be more visible but more importantly to interact more with students, Kucirek said.
The school patrols also helped familiarize officers with the layout of school buildings in case they need to respond to an emergency, he wrote.
Overall in 2016, criminal offense arrests fell 37 percent and traffic arrests declined 23 percent — not because calls for help fell dramatically, but because officers had shifted their focus more toward foot patrols, according to the chief. Fewer tickets and warnings also resulted from the change.
The 2016 annual report showed a total 11,088 calls for service, 1,612 citations, 2,927 warnings, 499 motor vehicle crashes, 100 radar enforcements, and 14 parking tickets. May, September, and October were by far the busiest months for police.
Force was used 22 times during 2016, most often as officers threw suspects off balance or displayed their firearms to convince suspects to comply. But there were no shots were fired, no injuries reported, and stun guns were only used twice , Cawthon wrote.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.