Chief compiles Salem crime stats for 2017

SALEM — Proactive police officers and an alert public — that’s the combination that led to a big increase in incident reports, citations and drug arrests last year, Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott said.

According to the department’s 2017 report of statistics, incident reports increased from 7,971 in 2016 to 9,123 last year. Calls to dispatch increased from 12,009 to 15,427. Traffic citations increased from 923 to 1,297. Custodial arrests increased from 431 to 696.

Drug possession arrests increased from five to 17 and drug paraphernalia arrests increased from five to 56. Narcotics reports significantly increased from 49 to 130.

“We’re busier. That’s a pretty significant jump,” Panezott said regarding the number of incident reports.

He attributed part of the increase to the 12-hours shifts instituted last year for officers, saying there are more officer-generated reports. They’re being proactive. Some of the younger officers also completed criminal patrol training offered through the Ohio State Highway Patrol, teaching them to look beyond a traffic stop for indicators of drug activity.

“They’re stopping a lot more people for traffic violations and they’re finding drugs, warrants, driving under suspensions. Having the computer in the car helps, too,” he said.

Some officers also completed training for advanced roadside impaired driving enforcement.

“I like the 12-hour shifts because I’m seeing much more productivity,” Panezott said.

With two K-9s working shifts, that’s also contributed, especially for the huge jump in drug paraphernalia and possessions. K-9 Simon and K-9 Argo had a combined 409 deployments. Their work resulted in 35 felony charges in the city, not counting assistance provided to outside agencies. They had a combined 225 narcotic sniffs. Some of those sniffs have yielded marijuana and other drugs like heroin and cocaine along with drug abuse instruments such as pipes and needles.

The dogs also do a ton of community-oriented visits as part of the department’s community policing project.

Panezott pointed out the number of reports for suspicious vehicles or persons, which increased from 639 in 2016 to 816 in 2017.

“I think people are paying much more attention to what’s going on in their neighborhoods,” he said, adding that’s good because it’s led to some drug arrests.

He stressed that citizens should call the police if they see something that doesn’t seem right because there’s a good chance it’s not.

He attributed the increase to “the partnership we have with our community. People are calling us and letting us know what’s going on in their neighborhood.”

Well-being checks by officers increased from 331 to 478, calls for solicitors increased from 18 to 49 and calls for fraud and identify theft increased from 127 to 150. Miscellaneous calls, which could be anything not falling into other categories or for someone to just speak with an officer, increased from 279 to 424.

Panezott also made note of an increase in medical calls, both the reports by officers and those coming into dispatch. Some of the increase comes from dispatching for the fire department, but it could also have to do with drug overdoses, which aren’t counted separately but have been increasing according to Panezott.

Other increases to note on the criminal side included domestic violence cases, obstructing official business, thefts and disorderly conduct. Noticeable increases were recorded for animal complaints, alarms, litter, parking violations and disabled vehicle calls, etc.

For traffic citations, drunken driving arrests increased from 63 to 93. Other large increases occurred in driving under suspensions, traffic light violations, expired licenses, headlight violations, juvenile traffic offenders and hit/skips. Speeding citations increased from 191 to 243.

“We gave more warnings that tickets. If you get a speeding ticket in Salem, you deserve it,” Panezott said.

The number of documented warnings increased from 562 in 2016 to 2,195 in 2017.

For grand jury cases, Salem had at least 35 people indicted for various crimes, some multiple counts, included one man indicted for four counts of rape. There were 13 indictments for drug possession, three from drug paraphernalia and one for felony drunken driving. Those numbers don’t include the ones through the Columbiana County Drug Task Force where a full-time Salem officer is assigned.

He noted that all of the police dispatchers completed the required basic dispatch training and emergency medical dispatch training and did very well. They handled an increased number of 911 calls last year, from 894 in 2016 to 1,304 in 2017.

Panezott said that “99.9 percent of the people who live in this town are great people. We deal with a small percentage of troublemakers and repeat offenders. I’m really proud of our officers. They take pride in what they do and want to help the community be a better place.”