Wilton police: Assaults up in 2019 but overall crime is down
WILTON — Except for assaults, which are at a five-year high, crime in Wilton was down in 2019, compared to 2018, according to the Wilton Police Department’s annual report.
The number of assaults recorded last year was 48, four times the number (12) reported in 2015, marking a steady increase of 24 in 2016, 38 in 2017, and 41 in 2018. Of the 48 assaults last year, 21 were family violence incidents that are also counted under domestic calls.
The category of assault includes the offenses of simple assault, aggravated assault and intimidation, such as threatening and violations of protective orders, Capt. Rob Cipolla said. Updating of guidance from the state on the proper reporting of certain types of offenses, such as protective order violations being an intimidation offense, contributed to the total number of assaults.
Crimes against property — such as burglary, larceny, and stolen cars — were down in almost all cases to a total of 228 incidents, compared to 263 in 2018. The crime with the highest number of incidents was larceny, with 91 incidents. This was a decrease, however from the 135 incidents in 2018, attributable, the report says, to fewer reported thefts from vehicles.
Fraud was next highest with 69 incidents followed by destruction of property with 36 incidents.
There were 13 incidents of burglary, seven stolen cars, two incidents of embezzlement and one of stolen property. There were no reports of robbery, bribery or extortion.
What are termed as crimes against society were also down with 33 incidents of drugs/narcotics, five incidents of pornography/obscene material, and one weapons violation. There were no reports of prostitution.
Totaled up, crimes against property account for 73 percent of crime in Wilton. That is higher than the national average of 60 percent. However, Wilton’s rate of crimes against people, 15 percent, and crimes against society, 12 percent, are lower.
There was a total of 315 offenses last year and police made 183 arrests, 15 of which were for crimes reported in previous years.
For the assaults, which were the only crimes against people reported in 2019, the police had a clearance rate of 71 percent. That means 71 percent were cleared by arrest or exceptional means. Exceptional means refers to when police cannot arrest and charge an offender such as if the offender dies or extradition is denied when an offender is being prosecuted for a crime elsewhere.
Seventy-nine percent of the crimes against society resulted in arrest, but only 13 percent of the crimes against property were so cleared.
Traffic stops and accidents
The number of traffic stops made by police continued a three-year decline since a high of 6,280 in 2016. Last year, police made 4,015 traffic stops. Of those, 18 percent were Wilton residents and 90 percent were from Connecticut.
Arrests of impaired drivers also declined to 36 last year. That is considerably fewer than the high of 67 in 2015. DUI-related crashes have also decreased to 10 in 2019, compared to 14 in 2015. Only one of the 2019 crashes resulted in a report of injuries, compared to five in 2015.
Recognizing the drop in enforcement, Cipolla said the department is sending newer officers to advanced DUI-recognition training.
“Pre-COVID we began to see some early returns on that effort in 2020,” he said.
Motor vehicle crashes in general were on the increase, totaling 536 in 2019, more than any of the last five years. Of those 138 resulted in injuries but there were no fatalities.
Domestic incidents have stubbornly remained consistent over the last five years. The number increased slightly in 2019 to 88, compared to 82 in 2018. The greatest number over the past five years was 102 in 2016.
Of the incidents last year, 33 were attributed to family violence, which means there was physical harm or a threat of violence. Arrests occurred in 29 of those cases.
Family violence, the report says, accounted for 16 percent of all arrests in Wilton last year.
Fourteen incidents of family violence, resulting in 12 arrests, occurred between spouses and ex-spouses. At least one child was present in seven of the incidents involving arrest.
Eight arrests involved parent-child relationships. Four incidents involved people in a current or former dating relationship.
Domestic incidents that are not classified as family violence are those that involve disputes that are primarily verbal arguments and do not involve physical harm.
Since 2013, Wilton police have followed the Lethality Assessment Screening Program where officers offer victims in danger access to help immediately. Last year, of 19 victims believed to be in “high danger,” 14 spoke to a hotline worker.
Use of force
Twelve police officers were involved in seven instances where force was used on a suspect. That is down from the previous year when 17 officers were involved in nine incidents. All 2019 incidents were within police policy, the report says.
Two of the incidents involved a firearm being pointed. Seven involved officers’ hands only, one involved OC (pepper) spray and two involved pointing a Taser-like weapon.
Force was used twice in making an arrest and three times for crisis intervention.
In each of the incidents the civilian was white; six were male, one was a female.
The report indicates 99 percent of Wilton police arrests are made without force.
There were 15 complaints lodged against police last year; three alleging discourteous conduct, five regarding standards of conduct and seven alleging procedure violations.
Six complaints were serious enough to be investigated by an internal affairs officer, the others were investigated at the supervisor or command level. Six were sustained, eight were found to be unfounded and one was not sustained.
Overall, police responded to 14,431 calls for service last year, down from 15,674 the year before. The greatest number were for motor vehicle investigations (39 percent) followed by “other” service such as vehicle lock-outs and permits (31 percent), alarms (11 percent), criminal investigations (10 percent), and EMS calls (9 percent).
One reason for the decline in calls for service is the corresponding number of declining traffic stops.
“As our department has continued to run understaffed, it has impacts on the amount of resources we have available for proactive vehicle enforcement,” Cipolla said. He noted that despite the decline in calls for service, the amount of time officers are spending on those calls for service has increased from 6,203 hours in 2018 to 6,532 hours in 2019.
“As officers are tasked with responding to increasingly complex calls, more time spent on scene is required,” the report says.
The report also includes a list of notable arrests made in 2019. They include:
The seizure of 5 1/2 pounds of marijuana, 50 grams of cocaine, hallucinogenic mushrooms, LSD, prescription pills, and $13,770 in cash during a traffic stop.
The use of DNA evidence in arresting a suspect accused of stealing $12,000 in jewelry during a residential burglary.
An arrest in a romance scam when the post office alerted police to a package containing $23,000 in cash, mailed from a victim in Mississippi to a Wilton address. Police arrested the man who arrived to claim the package.
Identification of a Pennsylvania resident who was involved in a spear-phishing account that stole $10,000 from a Wilton business.