Property crime up 72 percent in Centralia in first half of 2010

Property crime in Centralia has spiked in 2010, according to figures gathered by police.

Compared to the first half of a down year for criminals in 2009, property crime so far in 2010 is up 72 percent, from 364 to 628 incidents. Burglaries and thefts account for most of the increase.

Compared to 270 thefts in the first six months of 2009, that figure has hit 475 in 2010. Burglaries rose from 55 to 118.

Motor vehicle thefts and arsons - the other two subcategories of property crime considered in the equation - didn't experience a significant increase, according to Centralia Police Chief Bob Berg.

Berg called the figures "not very comforting," attributing the rise to an abundance of career petty criminals on the street during a bad economy.

Berg said incidents becoming more frequent include theft of scrap metal, tools and copper wire from garages, sheds and abandoned properties. Thieves usually load it up and take it out of town to pawn it, he said.

The chief said most of the criminals know there are lesser penalties for breaking into garages and other detached buildings than if they are caught inside proper residences.

"It's the usual stuff. Lock your property. Check your property often," Berg said. "Don't leave valuables in cars."

Berg said the department also is seeing a rise in the need to use force in arrests, including physical apprehension, K-9 captures and drawing or use of guns and Tasers.

So far in 2010, officers have had to use force in 91 instances, compared to 89 during all of 2009. Calls for service in general are at 13,881 through the end of July, compared to 12,256 in the same period of 2009.

Violent crime, which includes homicides, rapes and assaults, did not rise significantly from last year in Centralia, with 45 incidents in 2009 and 51 in 2010.

Berg said law enforcement is merely one factor in a slew of variables that determine the rise and fall of crime statistics.

"The police department should not take too much credit when the crime rate is low and not too much blame when the crime rate is high," he said.

The Lewis County Sheriff's Office also reported a rise in property crime and violent crime, although they do not match Centralia's spike.

According to Cmdr. Steve Aust, deputies responded to 336 property crimes in the first half of 2009, compared to 378 in 2010, and 188 violent crimes last year, compared to 218 this year.

Aust said he has seen a general rise in identity theft and fraud in the county, although specific numbers are still being calculated.

Crime statistics were not immediately available from Chehalis police.