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Athens police: year in review - noise and nuisance calls fall, burglaries increase

During Ohio University’s Spring Semester, Athens police saw a decrease in noise complaints and nuisance party violations, as well as underage drinking citations, in spite of the infamous spring fest season. Burglaries, though, saw an uptick.

“All in all, it doesn’t change that dramatically, so the concern, of course, is making sure that it doesn’t increase,” Mayor Paul Wiehl said. “There’s always a shift back and forth depending on what’s going on. … It stays pretty consistent.”

Partying Penalties

Between Jan. 6 and April 21, 197 noise complaints were called into APD as well as 23 nuisance party violations. The noise complaints are down around 40 percent from the 316 called in during Fall Semester, and nuisance party violations went down by 11 while just two occurred outside of a street fest. In addition, underage drinking citations were down from 150last semester to 81 this semester.

Although Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle said nothing has changed, the city’s policies are having an impact on the party culture.

“And, we’re heading to a more orderly, peaceful community,” Pyle said. “It’s not just us, it’s the shift to semesters, our enforcement policies, some of the things the university is doing.”

He added order maintenance crimes, such as underage drinking, public intoxication, public urination and disorderly conduct, are down about 5 percent compared to the same time last year.

The drop in underage drinking citations is a result of the department shifting its focus elsewhere, Pyle said.

“Underage drinking in and of itself, just drinking a beer underage or possessing beer underage, does not tend to lead to more serious crime,” Pyle said. “There are a lot of people in town that aren’t of drinking age who consume alcohol. Not all of them are pre-disposed or inclined to cause problems.”

However, he added those underage who are inclined to commit more serious crimes tend to start off by drinking.

“A large majority of people drinking underage aren’t going to cause any problems,” Pyle said. “So we are focusing on the ones who will cause problems.”

Thefts and Burglaries

As reported burglaries and burglaries in progress both saw increases during the Spring Semester, thefts and vehicle thefts went on the downswing.

Pyle said the increase in burglaries is connected to two or three rings of burglars, who are likely committing the crimes to feed drug habits.

“Once we latch on to them, we will be able to clear up quite a few, if we can latch on to them,” Pyle said. “Chances are it’s drug-related, that’s just a prediction on my part, but it is probably drug related in some fashion. Someone supporting a habit or something like that.”

The increase in burglaries bothers Wiehl even though he doesn’t see the trend changing a whole lot.

“It would be nice if we could say we can all leave our doors unlocked, but I don’t think that’s part of where we are these days,” Wiehl said.

As was the case during the fall, Wal-Mart, 929 E. State St., saw more thefts than any other business. Pyle said the diversity of products sold, as well as the amount of people who go to Wal-Mart, cause this to be a reality time and time again.

“And yes, you can shoplift in all kinds of other stores, but you can’t shoplift with the variety that you can at Wal-Mart,” Pyle said. “So I just think it has to do with the volume of people in there as opposed to other stores.”

Sexual Crimes and Missing Persons

During the fall, much of the discussion on campus focused on sexual assault and rape culture, particularly after an alleged sexual assault from Homecoming Weekend that was filmed and posted to social media.

This spring, seven rapes were called into APD as well as six additional sexual offenses. In comparison, 10 rapes were reported during the fall.

Much as sexual assault grabbed headlines in the fall, missing people were frequently above the fold this spring, as local 21-year-old Sam Wiater disappeared and was later found dead in the Hocking River on Monday after roughly six weeks of searching. In addition, 22-year-old Sammie Steven Donato, who was walking from Mt. Orab, Ohio, to the East Coast, was found dead in a creek near Dow Lake near U.S. Route 50 earlier this month.

Pyle said the two deaths have no connection.

“Because of the end result, you notice more this semester,” Pyle said. “We have had two people who turned up deceased, so it’s more prevalent in the headlines. We seem to be in a peak.”

Looking ahead to the summer

As the summer months, and the end of the school year, are merely days away, Pyle said the department is taking a collective deep breath.

“Our crimes such as drunk and disorderly (and) public urination will go down, the property crimes will remain pretty static. Shoplifting will remain,” Pyle said. “But by and large, its kind of a respite for the staff and the patrol division to reorder.”


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