CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Crime in two of West Virginia’s largest cities has risen dramatically over the last several years due to the nationwide heroin epidemic, police said.
Huntington and Charleston police released crime statistics for 2016 on Thursday.
In Huntington, there were more than 1,100 overdoses reported with 60 of them resulting in death. Police found more than 2,600 grams of heroin valued at $456,000.
Charleston’s statistics show overall crime was theft related.
“Most of the suspects we arrest in these cases are addicted to heroin. We’ve seen a direct correlation between the rise in burglary, break ins, theft, in general, with the rise in the heroin addiction epidemic,” said Lt. Steve Cooper, chief of detectives with the Charleston Police Department.
From 2012-2016, Charleston saw more cases of murder, rape, robbery, malicious wounding, burglary/breaking and entering, larceny, breaking/entering auto and motor vehicle thefts. Rape was the only category that decreased in numbers in 2016. In 2015, there were 54 rapes reported in Charleston. In 2016, that number fell to 36.
The 2016 report for Charleston says there were 11 murders, 153 robberies, 116 malicious wounding cases, 969 burglary/B&E, 1,985 larceny cases, 797 B&E auto reports and 312 vehicle thefts.
According to Huntington’s 2016 numbers, there were 12 murders, 337 shoplifting cases, 443 drug arrests, 142 stolen property, 130 aggravated assault reports and almost 3,000 property crimes.
Charleston’s West Side has been a troubled area for quite some time, Cooper said. Crime for 2016 was up on the West Side, but for the most part, that area has seen less crime over the years due an increased police prescience.
“We have really enhanced our police efforts to focus on crime on the West Side, so that statistic shows that correct policing can lower crime statistics,” Cooper said.
There were more break-ins on Charleston’s East End compared to the West Side and the South District, which makes up Kanawha City.
“There are many more businesses on the East End than there are on the West Side,” Cooper said. “It’s not surprising that there are more break-ins in that part of town.”
Crime was a lot worse in Charleston back in the early 2000’s, Cooper said.
“Murder after murder for several years and up to 400 malicious woundings compared to citywide now 100-some. It’s down literally 300 percent from 10 years ago,” he said.
That’s good news for Charleston, but Cooper said more work needs to be done. In his opinion, there needs to be more drug treatment centers close by and community-policing initiatives.
Many of those initiatives are already in place. To view a full list of those efforts, click here.
Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster said in a statement, “Addicts have to feed their cravings so they are going to steal everything of value they can find to help pay for their drugs. Regardless of their addiction, they should be held accountable when they commit crimes against people and property but we would ultimately prefer they seek treatment and rehabilitation so they can return to being productive members of society.”