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Springfield police say overall crime in 2013 increased by three percent in the city from the year before. That’s according to data submitted through the Uniform Crime Report. Aggravated assault accounted for 64 percent of last year’s crimes against persons.
Officials say aggravated assaults are routinely found to be the result of domestic violence situations. Last year there were 1,206 such offenses, an 11 percent bump from a year ago.
2013 marked the launch of the Family Violence Task Force to reduce domestic violence. Among the members is Patty Ingle, executive director of Harmony House, which provides shelter, advocacy and education to survivors of domestic violence.
“Unfortunately there really do seem to be a lot more that is happening within the Springfield area and that’s why the task force is so important of trying to get the whole community involved,” Ingle says.
In its report, Springfield PD notes that last January the definition of rape was changed, with the goal of more comprehensive statistical reporting. With more sexual assault cases now classified as rape due to the change, police say there was a 99 percent increase in cases last year. While the perception is that rapes increased significantly in 2013, Police Chief Paul Williams says this gives the department a “truer perspective on the number of sexual assaults” actually occurring. Ingle adds it brings to the forefront how many types of crimes can be classified as rape.
“I think it’s a significant step for us to understand the crimes that are going on and how it needs the attention to figure out how we improve our community.”
Ingle says so far the task force has conducted a community conference, distributed public service announcements to local media, and will work to strengthen collaborations with law enforcement to combat the issue.
While Harmony House is capable of safely housing around 500 woman and children a year, Ingle says their organization had to turn away 1,611 in 2013. That’s an increase from the previous year.
Additional figures from the Uniform Crime Report show homicides in Springfield were down 25 percent from the previous year from 16-12, with 10 of those cases solved. Robberies increased by 12 percent, with investigators clearing 45 percent of those cases, better than in 2012.
Police also point to its Crossfire operation, which targets the city’s most violent criminals. Of the 20 violent criminals targeted last year, the department says seven are currently in prison or jail, and 10 have been charged or have charges pending.