The city of Macon and unincorporated Bibb County both showed decreases in overall crime in 2009, according to figures released Thursday by Macon police and the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.
The city, in fact, had a record low number of crimes, said Police Chief Mike Burns. The 7,965 reported crimes in 2009 were the lowest since 1994, the first year the city started to track the data. That figure represents an 11 percent drop from the 8,969 crimes reported in 2008.
“We hope this rights the perception that crime is out of sight in this town, because it’s not,” Burns said at a news conference. In addition, Burns and his staff noted that the clearance rates among major crimes were well above the national averages in 2009.
Lt. Carl Fletcher of the Macon police said the city cleared 88 percent of its homicides last year, 86 percent of rapes, 42 percent of robberies and 80 percent of aggravated assaults.
By comparison, the national clearance numbers in 2009 were 63 percent in homicides, 46.4 percent in rapes, 26.8 percent in robberies and 54.9 percent in aggravated assaults.
“Those are the best clearance numbers in 33 years that I can remember,” Fletcher said.
Of the 17 homicide incidents in 2009, arrests were made in 15 of them, Burns said.
“We have the greatest investigators in the state,” Burns said.
Burns said he thinks the number of robberies in the city is still too high, especially residential robberies.
“It’s one of those crimes we seem to arrest the same people over and over,” he said.
According to the data, all of the city’s four precincts dropped in the number of crimes from the previous year. The 4th Precinct — mostly south and west Macon — had the most reported crimes with 2,508, which was down 5 percent from 2008. The 2nd Precinct — which includes the area around Houston Avenue and parts of Eisenhower Parkway — had the lowest number of reported crimes with 1,391, down 23 percent from the previous year — the biggest drop among all the precincts.
In unincorporated Bibb County, Sheriff Jerry Modena reported an overall drop of 3.2 percent in 2009. There were 2,465 crimes reported in the county, down from 2,547 the previous year. The 2009 figure represents the lowest total of reported crimes in six of the previous seven years, with only 2007 having a lower number, Modena said.
In the past decade, annual crime figures have only risen twice, he said.
Modena gave the credit to his investigators and patrol deputies, saying officials study the data very closely and target the areas with high crime rates.
“We have trained investigators on our staff, experienced and mature men and women who have honed their craft,” he said. “Our patrol division is very aggressive.”
Homicides in the county rose from one in 2008 to four last year, but rapes were down 27 percent and aggravated assaults down 25 percent, the statistics showed.
Modena said arrests were made in all four homicides.
The highest increase in crime rates came in shoplifting, up 44 percent, but Modena attributed the rise to store owners being more diligent to help capture shoplifters.
The county also showed a 40 percent increase in commercial burglaries and a 17 percent increase in home burglaries. The biggest drop in 2009 in the county was personal robberies, down 44 percent.
Officials from the police and the sheriff’s office both praised community efforts toward reducing crime, ranging from neighborhood watch programs to calling in tips to Macon Regional CrimeStoppers.
However, they said the public also could do more to reduce the targets for criminals, such as not leaving their valuables in their vehicles.
Another helpful thing would be to record serial numbers on property such as TVs, computers and other items.
Modena said the public shouldn’t be afraid to call law enforcement if they see something suspicious.
But even with all of the data collected, Modena said there’s no magic bullet for fighting crime.
“Everyone is looking for a magic bullet,” he said. “Having a highly trained person fighting crime — that’s the magic bullet.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.