Crime rate up slightly in city

Becky Campbell • Apr 20, 2012 at 11:45 AM

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released its 2011 crime report which shows crime in Johnson City increased overall by 3 percent and in Washington County decreased by less than 1 percent.

In Johnson City there were fewer crimes against a person — categorized by TBI as Group A offenses — but more crimes involving alcohol, trespassing, bad checks and disorderly conduct. Those crimes are categorized as Group B offenses.

The report also showed there were fewer assaults, fraud cases and thefts.

DUI arrests increased by 38 and public intoxication arrests were up by 158 and liquor law violations were up by 91. Trespassing arrests also increased by 174.

The Johnson City Police Department’s clearance rate for Part A crimes increased as well, from 57.7 percent in 2010 to 58.25 percent in 2011.

“You would like to have 100 percent. We do our best and that comes from hard work from investigators and officers involved in following up on cases,” Younger said.

“Our major concern is the Part A offenses,” said JCPD Major Garry Younger. “Anytime you have a decrease there, that equates to better quality of life for your community.”

There are variables that affect the crime level, including proactive policing, education and self awareness, he said.

“That’s a big thing when it comes to crimes against a person,” Younger said.

Drug offenses increased in the city as well as weapon law violations. Often the two go hand in hand, Younger said.

“Increases in these categories obviously show we’re coming in contact with more people involved in usage.

“More people in that category tend to go armed.”

Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal said he’s proud of his department’s crime clearance rate.

The sheriff’s office cleared 49.15 percent of the 5,482 crimes that occurred in the county last year. That was up from 44.12 percent in 2010.

“Anytime you have a clearance rate of half, that’s good,” he said.

Like the city, the county experienced more drug violations and saw a decrease in total assaults.

Both departments also saw a significant decrease in the number of forcible rapes reported. In Johnson City there were 25 reported in 2010 and seven in 2011. In the county there were 20 in 2010 and 10 last year.

The county investigated more fraud cases in 2011 than it did in 2010, but slightly fewer theft cases.

Both categories were down in the city.

The most serious of the Group A crimes — murder — increased in the city but decreased in the county.

Last year the city investigated three murders:

— On Feb. 12, police responded to 901 Long St. where they believe a murder/suicide occurred. They found Frankie Hughes, 31, and Rebecca Pugh Markland, 33, dead. The couple apparently had a dispute over custody of their 10-month-old son. Markland previously reported that Hughes had threatened her.

— On July 30, Gary Couch was found lying in the road on Quarry Road, dead of gunshot wounds. Justin A. “Puff” Stratton, 30, was arrested on the charge and is in jail awaiting trial.

— On Dec. 8, police responded to an apartment complex on Swadley Road and found Freida Russell, 62, dead from stab wounds and her husband, Clifford Russell, 65, severely injured. The couple’s grandson, Cody Russell, 20, was arrested on a murder and attempted murder charge.

There were no homicides in Washington County in 2011.

In the Group B crimes, the state tallys alcohol offenses, including DUI.

Both the city and county had an increase in the number of DUI arrests from 2010 to 2011.

For the city, there were 280 DUI arrests in 2011, up from 242 in 2010.

In the county there were 128 DUI arrests in 2011, which was up from 92 in 2010.

Overall, both Younger and Graybeal said this area is a safe place to live.

“I think it’s excellent. We live in an area that has one of the lowest crime rates in the U.S.,” Graybeal said.

Younger agreed.

“Obviously you want a safer environment. If Group A crimes are down, the quality of life is up and you have a safer community,” he said.

To see the TBI’s full report, go ti the department’s website at www.tbi.tn.gov, click on Tennessee Crime Statistics on the left side for a link to the Statistical Analysis Center webpage. Up-to-date 2011 statistics can also be accessed at www.tncrimeonline.com.

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