The Right Note: Public Safety by the Numbers

The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Two years ago, Arlington Democrats picked a new prosecutor in a contentious primary. Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was backed by George Soros to put social justice front and center in the prosecutor’s office.

Since taking office in January of 2020, she took on the Circuit Court judges on the crimes she must prosecute. And she announced earlier this spring she would focus on reducing racial disparities in prosecutions by 20 percent.

The annual Crime in Virginia report from the Virginia State Police is out for 2020. The latest crime statistics gives us one objective measure to look at the effect on public safety during Dehghani-Tafti’s first year on the job.

In 2019, there were 822 simple assaults reported. In 2020, there were 906 or a 10 percent increase. Aggravated assaults are up 40 percent. Vandalism is up 13 percent. Theft from a motor vehicle is up 16 percent. And robbery was up by 27 percent. And while reports of “Group A Offenses” is essentially unchanged, arrests are down by 12 percent.

There were drops in some crimes, including a significant reduction in credit card fraud, which is to be expected with businesses being closed for so long in 2020 due to COVID. Thefts from buildings and drug violations also dropped.

If you want to track crime statistics monthly, the Arlington County Police Department also provides reports. May’s report shows a 16 percent uptick for 2021 over the same period last year.

Dehghani-Tafti used the recent release of ACPD’s 2020 crime report to tout her support for a regional task force to combat carjackings which are up dramatically in 2021. Two weeks ago, Dehghani-Tafti took a ride along with Arlington Police detectives who are trying to stop the spread of car thefts and thefts out of vehicles across the county. She tweeted “Seriously, lock your doors please.”

Dehghani-Tafti also used the event to push back on the idea that insufficient prosecution, or being a “reformer” is the reason for rising crime numbers. She promises to overhaul her office’s case management system to provide data to the public to back up her assertions that her office is focusing prosecutorial efforts “on crimes that are a public safety risk,” including “car tamperings and car thefts.” Hopefully, these numbers are forthcoming soon to show how her office’s reforms translate into measurable data.

If numbers were the only thing that mattered to voters, most of Congress would have been fired for putting us nearly $30 trillion in debt. However, they do give us something objective to measure. And ultimately, the voters will have to use the numbers as they evaluate whether Dehghani-Tafti’s overall job performance deserves re-election in two years.

Mark Kelly is a long-time Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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