Middletown: Crime increases with population, chief says
In 2019, reported stolen vehicles more than tripled from the previous year from nine to 30, according to the Middletown Police Department 2019 statistical report.
Chief Robert Kracyla attributes the increase to two stolen vehicle sprees, which he associated with thefts from motor vehicles, from 10 in 2018 to 23.
“It was a statewide issue, and we just got caught up in it,” he said. “We made arrests in both of those crime sprees.”
The chief said the number of stolen vehicles was alarming but was happy about the work and dedication his officers put in.
The statistical report compares data for crime clearances, traffic violations, felony and misdemeanor arrests, police reports and vehicle crashes reported to the Middletown police from 2018 and 2019.
The report compares crime data from 2019 to 2018 for traffic violations, felony and misdemeanor arrests, police reports and vehicle crashes reported to the Middletown police.
Middletown police responded to nearly 2,000 more calls in 2019 — 10,733 to 12,541 — a 16.8% increase from 2018. Kracyla said crime has risen overall in Middletown, with 400 more crime reports documented this year, but he attributed it to the town’s population growth.
“Even the daytime population in Middletown has grown … the potential for crime is going to go up,” he said.
In early August, Middletown police investigated 19 reported thefts in the Middletown Village, Millbranch and Congressional Village neighborhoods, including three stolen vehicles and 16 thefts or attempted thefts from vehicles.
Five arrests were made: ShaiQuane Douglas of Wilmington, Denzel Massengill of New Jersey and three juveniles.
“Most of the people involved were not from the town of Middletown. They were outsiders coming in, stealing cars and leaving,” he said. “We worked really hard on that.”
Kracyla did not provide information on the second spree, but said those involved were not Middletown residents.
Crime, foot patrol reports
In 2019, field service reports — police officers on foot patrol — increased by more than 100% from 2018, and crime reports rose by nearly 20%.
Four hundred more crime reports were documented by the Middletown police last year, from 2,247 in 2018 to 2,689 in 2019.
Crime reports account for calls to the police that do not involve an abandoned vehicle, domestic dispute, foot patrol, missing person or stolen vehicle. All reports, except abandoned vehicles, went up.
Kracyla said reporting requirements change, so some incidents that previously didn’t require a report now do.
“I would consider that number static,” he said in reference to crime reports. “Most numbers have gone up, but I attribute that to population increase.”
Kracyla said this is good for the community.
“That number comes from our foot patrols and proactive contacts with the public. That has been very significant,” he said. “It appears as a negative, but it’s actually a positive.”
The estimated population of Middletown grew by about 2% from 2017 to 2018, increasing from 20,754 to 21,250, according to U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data. Estimates for 2019 were not available.
Crime clearance, the percentage of arrests made compared to reported crime, dropped in three of the five categories: burglary, damaged property, theft, robbery, and vehicle theft.
Damaged property and theft saw small decreases in crime clearance, while burglaries dropped from 72% to 59%. In 2018, 44 arrests were made in the 61 reported burglaries. Forty-eight arrests were made in the 81 reported in 2019.
Vehicle thefts doubled in 2019, but the clearance rate went from 40% to 50%.
Robbery cases saw the biggest change, arrests increasing from 47% to 82%.
“Robbery is a crime against a person, so you automatically have a witness,” Kracyla said. “A burglary is a crime against property. So a lot of times, you’ll be looking for film or forensic evidence at the scene [of a burglary] and try to solve it that way. Having that human factor involved helps the clearance rate.”
Felony, misdemeanor arrests
Middletown police had more felony and misdemeanor arrests in 2019 than the previous year, with felonies arrests doubling from 128 in 2018 to 259 in 2019.
Misdemeanors went up by about 26%. Kracyla said there wasn’t a dramatic rise in felony and misdemeanor crimes, but there was a dramatic increase for felony and misdemeanor arrests.
“It’s a result of more effective policing, more use of forensic examination of scenes, new techniques,” he said. “It was through better training, better equipment and a more unified effort.”
In 2019, Middletown handed out 3,000 more traffic tickets and nearly 240 more warnings.
Violations went from 1,501 in 2018 to 1,813 last year. Written warnings rose from 575 to 814. Kracyla said he was especially happy to see there were no fatal crashes last year. There was one in 2018.
Although the increases could be attributed to the town’s growing population, Kracyla associates the warnings with police having more empathy, specifically referencing sympathy for speeding violations.
“This is a response to our core value in policing,” he said. “An environmental condition might cause it or the kids are crying in the backseat, and they are just trying to get home.”