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Violent crime and property crime up from pre-pandemic levels, but below state average

Police on scene of robbery at a bank in Ballston in May (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington saw a significant rise in crime in 2021 compared to the last pre-pandemic year of 2019.

The overall crime picture was something of a mixed bag, with most crime categories rising but no murders and a steep drop in drug charges in 2021, thanks in large part due to the decriminalization of marijuana in Virginia.

The stats come from the Arlington County Police Department’s annual report, which mostly focused on the year-over-year change in crime rates compared to 2020.

From the report:

The overall crime rate, reported as Group A Offenses, increased 4.8% in 2021 as compared to the previous year. Reported crimes against persons increased 24% in 2021, primarily driven by increases in aggravated and simple assaults. Reported crimes against property offenses increased 7.4% with marked increases in robbery, destruction/damage/vandalism and burglary/breaking and entering offenses. Notably, as a result of focused enforcement efforts and increased community awareness, thefts from motor vehicles decreased -13.1% from 2020. The Department remains committed to reducing, preventing and solving crime through active patrols, strategic deployment of police resources and comprehensive follow-up investigations.

Arlington saw a slight rise in sex offenses compared to 2019 and a larger rise compared to 2020. The rise in violent crime is in line with national trends, and ACPD noted that its overall crime rate is below the Virginia average.

“The total number of offenses, as well as the violent crime rate (offenses per 100,000 persons) remains below the 2021 Virginia average, and below the most-recent FBI Uniform Crime Report,” the department said in a press release.

“Group A” rates of mostly violent crime (via ACPD)

Property crime overall did not rise as steeply as violent crime, though burglary, robbery and vandalism all saw significant increases.

As noted in the annual report, vehicle thefts were down compared to 2020, but were up nearly 40% compared to 2019.

“Group A” rates of property crime (via ACPD)

A large drop in drug charges — down more than 50%, from 1,104 to 575, compared to 2019 — was attributed to changes in state law.

Arlington continued to see a rise in opioid overdoses, however, with total fatal (28) and non-fatal overdoses (64) reaching new highs, at least going back to the 2015.

Reported opioid incidents (via ACPD)

There was some good news in the report related to vehicle and pedestrian crashes, which both declined in 2021 compared to the prior two years.

Some of that positive news is at least partially offset by another stat: Driving Under the Influence charges are on the rise, reaching 382 in 2021, up 24% from 2019. Also, there were 4 fatal crashes, which is just shy of the average for the pre-pandemic years of 2017-2019.

ARLnow previously reported that 61 crashes in 2021 were considered severe. Arlington is now in the second year of its five-year Vision Zero action plan to eliminate fatal and severe crashes.

Crash rates (via ACPD)

“The number of collisions resulting in injury (369) was lower than any time in recent records,” the annual report noted. “ACPD responded to the rise in alcohol-related collisions with increased DUI enforcement and arrests in 2021.”

Police staffing remains a concern. The report says the count of ACPD sworn staff as of June 13 was 325. That’s down from 346 in September, a police spokeswoman confirmed. In March, ACPD announced that it would reduce some services due to staffing challenges.

Police Chief Andy Penn said in a statement that “2021 brought unique challenges as we continued to navigate the uncertainty of a global pandemic.”

“Throughout the year, the sworn and civilian staff of ACPD remained resilient and rose to each new challenge while continuing to provide the highest quality police services,” he said. “I am incredibly proud of the work they do each and every day in service to our community. I also recognize we are at our very best when working in collaboration with the community and appreciate all who engaged with us throughout the year to make us the very best we can be.”

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