2012 Clanton crime stats show improvement

Published 5:50 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Law enforcement is obviously important to the residents of a certain area, but the effectiveness of local police is also a factor outsiders consider when contemplating moving their businesses or themselves to that area.

Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell has seen the connection crime statistics have to the perception of a city, and since he came into his role in 2008, has taken steps to try to reduce crime in Clanton.

City demographic websites often list numbers provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, which tracks only violent crimes, in their snapshot of cities. Stilwell said instances of such crimes are trending downward nationally, while Clanton’s numbers have climbed in recent years.

“If you just look at these numbers, you say, ‘Wow, they’ve got a lot of crime in Clanton,’ which is not really true,” Stilwell said.

Clanton’s police department has added seven officers since 2008, Stilwell said, and has been reorganized so that it can be more proactive in fighting crime.

Before November 2010, the department consisted of a chief, a deputy chief and one investigator, and the rest of the staff were patrol officers.

A reorganization resulted in a structure including a chief, deputy chief, seven investigators and two probation officers. Also on staff are officers specializing in computer forensics and marijuana identification.

“It was a pretty massive overhaul,” Stilwell said. “The city council deserves credit for allowing us to do it. We changed the way we pay, our shifts, lots of things.”

Before the restructuring the patrol officers produced lots of cases, but the lone investigator was unable to handle the load, resulting in stacks of reports not receiving proper attention.

With more employees devoted to investigations, CPD is able to spend time identifying criminals and tracking them down before they can commit more crimes.

“Our jobs are more specific now,” Stilwell said. “Before, we didn’t even have time to look at most cases. They’re able to actually spend time investigating now.”

The department has also seen equipment upgrades, including reporting software installed in patrol cars.

The changes, Stilwell said, has allowed the department to make progress in reducing the city’s crime.

Statistics for 2012 were recently analyzed, and they compare favorably to numbers from 2011: a 50 percent reduction in arson cases, 9 percent reduction in assault cases, 37 percent decrease in burglaries, 13 percent decrease in robberies, 9 percent decrease in theft and a 41 percent decrease in automobile theft.

Clanton has seen a 5 percent reduction in the number of crime cases, a 3 percent decrease in number of arrests and a 9 percent decrease in the number of traffic wrecks (the third year in a row there has been a decline).

CPD issued 35 percent fewer warrants in 2012 than in 2011. The department has a 60 percent overall case closure rate and a 70 percent closure rate on felony cases.

Also, the city hasn’t seen a homicide in three years.

It adds up to an improvement of the city’s perception by those on the outside looking in.

“They know nothing about Clanton but what they see on a website,” Stilwell said. “We’re trying to make the city as attractive as possible, and we want to make sure the police department is one of those positive parts of city government.

“We’re important to economic development.”