A legislative perspective
by Rep. Greg Stumbo Speaker of the House
Every year since the late 1980s, the Kentucky State Police has published a highly detailed break-down of the previous year’s crimes, giving us a much closer look at – and appreciation of – the work done every day by our law enforcement officers.
This information from local and state departments alike is also crucial for those who oversee the state’s criminal justice system, because it points out trends that might otherwise go unnoticed and helps us determine the effectiveness of programs designed to make Kentucky safer.
A good case in point is the General Assembly’s renewed efforts last year to crack down on prescription drug abuse, an effort I have been proud to lead. Making it much easier to track and then stop this type of crime is almost certainly a key reason why we saw the overall number of drug-related arrests increase by about 3,000 in 2012.
The full scope of our drug problem, by the way, becomes even clearer when taking a longer view; consider that last year’s arrest total is nearly three times as high as 1995’s.
Other comparisons with that year show some other stark historical differences. There were 7,000 fewer DUIs last year than a generation ago, for example, and firearms were more than twice as likely to be used in homicides back then as now.
Homicides, of course, are the most serious crimes law enforcement investigates, and there were nearly 280 last year. Most were categorized as premeditated, with arguments the leading cause. There were nearly as many cases involving couples as there were drug dealing, and one homicide was tied to gang violence.
Overall, and not too surprisingly, violent crimes are about twice as likely to lead to criminal charges than property-based crimes. That’s not always the case; such categories as gambling, prostitution and drug offenses also have a relatively high arrest-rate.
From a monetary standpoint, thefts are traditionally the biggest category of property crimes by far, with an estimated $150 million stolen last year, only a fifth of which was recovered. Money and jewelry were predictably the most coveted items among thieves, but there also were $3.4 million worth of televisions and radios stolen, $3.1 million in firearms and even about $1 million in livestock.
Several other related crimes posted losses in the millions of dollars as well. Nearly 4,700 cars and trucks valued at $30.4 million were stolen in 2012, and robbers took $2.1 million more.
Burglars, meanwhile, swiped $43 million in 2012, with the average take totaling about $2,000. Although burglary is often thought of as a nighttime activity, more than half of the cases took place in the daytime.
There are only about 10,000 sworn officers and full-time civilian personnel at the state and local level who respond to all of these serious crimes, which on average occur less than every three minutes. That means the thin blue line protecting us is just two-tenths of one percent of the state’s population, which makes what they do even more remarkable in context.
We are always looking for ways to improve our criminal justice system, and our next focus will be on Kentucky’s juvenile justice laws, which are already being studied by a task force that is scheduled to have proposals when the next legislative session begins in January.
As always, if you would like to contact me about this or any other issue, you can leave a message for me at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
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