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Overall crime figures down in Salisbury for 2020; final numbers to come

By Shavonne Potts

shavonne.potts@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — In 2019, the Salisbury Police Department said it experienced a 20-year low in overall crime, and preliminary numbers for 2020 will be below that for overall crime, Chief Jerry Stokes said.

The Post requested data on violent and property crimes from both the Salisbury Police Department and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. Both agencies had not finalized their end of the year reports but provided data based on preliminary figures.

“We are on a good path and have a good model for how we provide policing in Salisbury,” Stokes said.

He said there is still work to do but believes the department can “celebrate the success knowing that we still have some crime issues to tackle as a community,” he said. Stokes said the pandemic may have hindered some of the positive things that the department does to engage the community, but he’s confident they will get back to doing that soon.

Despite the lockdown and changes that the pandemic brought, the department “never stopped policing as effectively as possible.”

“Our community should be proud of what we’ve accomplished together to reduce crime,” Stokes said. “I certainly am proud of Salisbury.”

He said the stratified policing model definitely has paid significant dividends for the community.

“One of the foundations for stratified policing is being evidence-based so our focus is on the right places and people,” he said. “It also improves our efficiency and effectiveness. We have a system of accountability we use to be sure everyone is on the same page from the chief, to supervisors, to detectives, and to patrol officers.”

He added that everyone with the police department is responsible for problem-solving at every level of the organization. The result, he said, has been reduced crime because of the focus on problem spots and the people responsible for the majority of the city’s crime.

The department received a Strategies in Policing Innovation Grant that was used to create the Rowan Regional Crime Data Center, which Stokes said isn’t just about technology but also “improving its evidence-based/data-driven efforts through the training and technical assistance we are receiving under the grant.”

The Salisbury Police Department had seven homicides in 2020 compared to two killings the year before. The number of rapes decreased to six in 2020 after 14 rapes were investigated in 2019.

As far as the number of murders in 2020 — seven victims and six incidents — and unlike some past years, not all had a gang or drug nexus, Stokes said. Stokes said the city’s violent crime has “traditionally been associated or had a relationship to drug sales or has a gang connotation as was shown in the Violent Incident Review we completed in 2018.”

One of the most recent murder investigations involved mother and son, 61-year-old Debra Brumley and her son, Jonathan Brumley, 38. The two had been stabbed multiple times in late October inside their Lincolnton Road home.

“I’m not sure if that’s indicative of a shift because of the concentration on those we identified as being both associated with drug sales and gangs or not,” Stokes said. “Without much ability to say for sure, it could be associated with family or relationship stress that came from the pandemic, but it may not be.”

He said the department did see an uptick in domestic violence assaults, but the agency doesn’t have the data to say for sure it was a fallout from the pandemic.

The agency’s data shows a decrease in both commercial and individual robberies. There were 11 commercial robberies and 33 individual robberies in 2020. In 2019, there were 17 commercial robberies and 52 individual robberies.

Both types of robberies decreased by more than 30% from 2019 to 2020.

The total number of violent crimes increased from 2019 to 2020 by 2%, with 177 reported in 2019 and 181 in 2020.

The total number of property crimes decreased by 13%, going from 1,406 in 2019 to 1,223 in 2020.

While residential burglaries decreased from 2019 to 2020 — going from 164 in 2019 to 103 in 2020 — the number of commercial burglaries increased from 45 in 2019 to 63 the year after.

The number of motor vehicle thefts increased slightly from 2019 to 2020 — going from 92 to 103. The number of larcenies decreased by 11 percent — going from 810 to 718.

According to its preliminary data, larcenies from vehicles decreased by 20%, going from 295 to 236 incidents.

Rowan County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Maj. John Sifford said specific data for 2020 is not available, but he did provide totals for specific incidents that occurred in 2020 — to include murders, rapes, larcenies and motor vehicle thefts.

Rowan County detectives investigated five homicides in 2019, which includes the recent arrest of Sarah Smith, who admitted in late December 2020 to pushing her 87-year-old grandmother down the stairs in October 2019.

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office investigated two murders in 2020, one of which was the death of Raymond Eugene Drye. He died at a Concord hospital from injuries in an assault by his stepson, Abe Alexander Helms. Helms was said to have returned home intoxicated, assaulted his sister-in-law, mother and stepfather. Drye went to the hospital later complaining of head pain and he later died.

The agency investigated 28 rapes in 2020 compared to the 16 in the previous year. The number of larcenies rose slightly, with 647 in 2020 and 642 in 2019.

There was a 53% increase in the number of vehicle thefts — from 91 in 2019 and 139 in 2020.

No data was available for assaults, burglaries and larcenies.

Sifford said they attribute the increase in overall crime to the number of people who have been out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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