STOW -- In terms of handling criminal cases in Stow Municipal Court, the city's law department was busy in 2016, but not quite as much as during the previous year.
According to the law department's annual report, prosecutors handled 1,445 criminal and traffic cases in 2016, including 198 felony cases and 1,247 misdemeanor cases. Misdemeanor cases include traffic citations.
This was down a bit from 2015, when the law department handled 1,499 cases, including 209 felony and 1,290 misdemeanor cases.
Both years, however, were up from 2014, when there were 1,341 cases, including 186 felony and 1,155 misdemeanor cases.
Law Director Amber Zibritosky told City Council in a letter accompanying the report that these cases do not include all of the criminal cases that went through the court, just the ones the law department was involved with.
"It should be noted that these reports represent the total number of criminal cases prosecuted by our office, not the total number of crimes committed within the jurisdictions we prosecute for," wrote Zibritosky. "The report does not include those cases which are (pleaded) or dismissed at arraignment nor do they include offenders with pending arrest warrants that have never appeared in court to answer for their crimes. Finally, the felony cases listed do not include those that have bypassed the direct indictment process and were presented to the grand jury via secret indictment due to the sensitive nature of the crime or flight risk concerns. The report is reflective of the volume of cases our office handles and the variety thereof only."
According to the the municipal court's 2016 annual report, the cases included in the law department's report are only a relatively small fraction of the criminal and traffic cases that went through the court: A total of 16,878 cases went through the court last year, more than in the previous two years with 15,533 cases in 2015 and 14,623 in 2014.
Besides Stow, the city's law department also provides prosecution services for townships that use the court, including Sagamore Hills, Northfield Center, Boston Township and Twinsburg Township. But numerous other cases are also filed by other cities and village that use the court, including Boston Heights, Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Macedonia, Munroe Falls, Northfield Village, Peninsula, Reminderville, Silver Lake, Stow, Tallmadge and Twinsburg.
Of cases handled by Stow prosecutors in 2014, about 70 percent or 939 of all criminal or traffic cases were out of Stow while about 30 percent, or 402, were township cases.
Stow's share jumped to 78 percent, or 1,173 cases in 2015, compared to about 22 percent, or 326 cases, for the townships before dropping back down to about 72 percent, or 1,043 cases, for Stow. Township cases accounted for about 28 percent, or 402 cases handled by the law department in 2016.
During Council's March 9 meeting, Zibritosky brought attention to some things involving certain misdemeanors.
The number of domestic violence cases were fairly consistent between 2014 and 2015, or 45 and 49 respectively, but then increased to 73 in 2016, a 62 percent jump over the previous year. Zibritosky did not offer any explanations for this.
However, she said there could be a correlation in a pattern between theft and drug cases. The law department handled 156 theft cases in 2014, which then jumped to 202 before they experienced a "level off" to 158 in 2016. There were 160 misdemeanor drug cases in 2014, which increased to 183 in 2015, then dropped down to 149 last year.
"Theft and drug cases tend to go together," said Zibritosky, adding that she's not sure why the number of cases dropped again last year for both offenses.
"Maybe it's just an off year, maybe it's just that a lot of people (pleaded) at arraignment so I'm not seeing them in these numbers, but I hope that's a trend and it continues," said Zibritosky. "So I thought I would give a little silver lining there."
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