By MARY ANN GREIER
The number of overall arrests dropped last year, but Chief Bob Floor said the 2012 annual report of police activity showed an increase in drug arrests, a trend he thinks will continue under his successor.
"I think this department is going to become much stronger on drug enforcement this year," he said.
Floor explained that he tried to keep the department active against drugs, but incoming chief J.T. Panezott specialized in that field, first with the Columbiana County Drug Task Force, then with the Drug Enforcement Administration. The department will also return to having an officer on the DTF full-time and will be adding a patrolman, providing another set of eyes on Salem streets.
The summary of arrests showed an increase in drug possession arrests from five in 2011 to 18 in 2012. There was also one arrest for drug trafficking and 10 for drug paraphernalia (a decrease from the unusually high number of 22 reported in 2011), along with 15 citations for possession of marijuana, up from 11 in 2011.
"It shows drug use has gone up, which I would certainly attribute that to our burglaries and other thefts," Floor said.
The department had two arrests each for aggravated robbery and breaking and entering/burglary, each up one from 2011, and two arrests for robbery, with zero arrests the year before. There were five calls for robbery (four in 2011), 130 calls for breaking and entering/burglary(126 in 2011), 509 calls for theft (531 in 2011), and 322 calls for trespassing (314 in 2011).
Floor explained that not every call or response by officers results in charges or arrests and some cases are handled through warrants or indictments through the grand jury instead of immediate arrests.
According to the summary of arrests, custodial arrests for thefts dropped from 83 in 2011 to 28 in 2012, but Floor said the numbers may be skewed because of a policy change made by the Columbiana County Prosecutor's Office. Instead of an officer making an immediate arrest, the information for a case is sent to the prosecutor's office for review first, then a warrant may or may not be issued.
The number of arrests for unruly juvenile, runaway and curfew also increased, from 54 in 2011 to 96 in 2012. Floor said the state changed the rules in 2012 on how rapidly they file missing juvenile reports, noting that after receiving the call, they have to be entered right away before they have a chance to investigate. A lot of times, the juvenile is found at a friend's house or somewhere else the parent tells police about.
In another juvenile area, underage consumption/possession arrests increased from 44 in 2011 to 54 in 2012. Delinquency and contributing to delinquency arrests decreased from 69 in 2011 to 36 in 2012.
Domestic violence arrests increased from 18 in 2011 to 21 in 2012 and assaults decreased from 10 in 2011 to eight in 2012.
When it comes to major crimes, there were no murders in Salem, but there was a fatal accident which resulted in an aggravated vehicular homicide indictment this year with the case still pending. There was one arson arrest. There were no stabbings, but there were two calls for shootings, both resulting in self-inflicted injuries.
All together, the department received 13,248 calls for service, with 8,511 incident reports which required police investigation. The majority of dispatcher calls came via telephone, with the most calls during the day shift from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and May being the most popular month for calls. The least number of calls came in February and then January.
The total number of traffic citations issued was 576 in 2012, a decrease from the 607 citations in 2011. There was a decrease in the number of drunken driving citations issued, with 49 in 2012 and 55 in 2011. Motor vehicle crashes increased, with the number of non-injury crashes listed as 567, up from 564 in 2011, and 54 injury crashes, up from 51 in 2011.
The majority of the 386 people arrested in 2012 and taken into custody were adult males. There were 445 custodial arrests in 2011, but men still accounted for most of them.
In looking at other municipalities, Floor said, "Salem is still one of the safest places you can find to live."
He said people talk about the drug problem in Salem, but he said he's well aware of the drug problem in Salem and added it's increasing everywhere.
"Please continue to support the Salem Police Department under J.T.'s leadership. This job is already difficult, but without the citizens' support, it's impossible," Floor said.
His last day is Feb. 1. Panezott will be sworn in as the new chief on Jan. 31, along with a new sergeant and a new patrolman.