Report shows crime down in Aurora in 2020; increased police presence in neighborhoods cited

Ken Lahmers
Special to the Aurora Advocate
Aurora Police Department’s K9 Officer Nero shows off his mask during the months that people around the world have coped with the coronavirus pandemic.

Calling 2020 “uniquely different,” Aurora Police Chief Brian Byard issued his annual department report recently, and it shows the city saw a decline in criminal cases from 2019 and 2018.

“We have much to be proud of as we were forced to adapt and overcome during times of uncertainty,” said Byard. “We have seen challenges personally, professionally and as an agency.

“The brief setbacks of 2020 will only make 2021 an exciting year of continued growth as we continue to move forward planning for exceptional education and training opportunities, as well as resuming our many community-related activities.”

The city’s police department boasts 53 full- and part-time personnel, including administrators, detectives, patrol officers, dispatchers and K9 Officer Nero.

Statistics show that 116 Part I – the most serious – offenses were reported in 2020, compared to 153 in 2019 and 170 in 2018. Overall police reports filed numbered 987, compared to 1,216 in 2019 and 1,199 in 2018.

Part I stats include 103 thefts, nine assaults, three motor vehicle thefts and one burglary. There were no murders or rapes. The chief said there have been only three murders in the past 22 years, and no rapes in the last 11 years.

Other stats reported include: Fraud/identity theft, 64 cases; vandalism/criminal mischief, 13; other sex offenses, four; drug abuse, seven; drug overdoses, five; domestic disputes, 59; physical domestic incidents, 15; disorderly conduct, 18; suicide attempts or threats, five; missing person, one; and other police reports taken, 812.

In addition, 199 arrest reports, 199 accident reports and 743 traffic citations were processed, officers responded to 15,105 calls and $435 in city monies (permit fees, parking fines and copies of reports) and $13,917 in court bonds and waivers were collected and transferred.

Adult arrests in 2020 totaled 177, down from 322 in 2019 and 261 in 2018, while juvenile arrests totaled 59, of which 52 cases were referred to Portage County Juvenile Court. Juveniles arrests were 58 in 2019 and 57 in 2018.

Detective Bureau Supervisor Dan Kalk said vehicle thefts were down from 17 in 2019.

“The reason we haven’t been hit as hard as other area communities is increased police presence in our neighborhoods overnight, and the arrests and convictions of a small group of people responsible for most of the thefts,” he said.

Last year, detectives investigated the theft of $248,338 of jewelry from Saks Off 5th, and a person was arrested and sentenced to prison for five years. They also investigated the theft of $714,376 from Aurora VFW Post 2629, with the culprit sentenced to three years in prison and required to make full restitution.

Kalk said the department successfully prosecuted eight cases of stalking and menacing, up from four in 2019. He said those crimes are a growing problem locally and nationally.

Identity theft and fraud cases rose by 13 from the 2019 amount of 51, with cases ranging from fraudulent loans taken out in the names of people without their knowledge or permission to the outright theft and use of credit cards and personal checks.

The department continues to give presentations about scams to civic, church and charitable groups and at nursing homes. They also investigate internet harassment, stalking and cyber bullying, situations which Kalk said especially have grown among teenagers.

To create a deterrent to those who may ponder committing crimes, the department has created an asset forfeiture policy, resulting in forfeiture of motor vehicles, tools, cash and electronic devices. “This is working well, and has had an impact on shoplifting and theft offenses,” said Kalk.

In 2020, the detective bureau confiscated and donated more than $12,000 in new clothing, cosmetics and toys to charities. It also coordinates efforts with many local businesses to obtain other merchandise to donate.

Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin and Byard chose Hiram Farm, Volunteers of America and Safer Futures domestic violence shelter as recipients of donated and forfeited property in 2020. Since 2014, more than $57,000 of property and merchandise have been donated to charitable groups.

School Resource Officer Jim Clague, a part-timer, joined Michelle Ice working in the schools on Feb. 10, 2020. He focuses on Harmon School, and brings 34 years of police experience to the department.

Longtime Aurora Police Department administrative assistant Sue Wright, center, is flanked by Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin and Police Chief Brian Byard during a farewell gathering marking her retirement.

Sue Wright, longtime administrative assistant to the police chief, retired effective earlier this year after 29 years working for the city.

Lt. Andy Lumpkins attended the 279th session of the FBI National Academy, taking courses in leadership, wellness, physical fitness, violent crimes investigation and cyber security and earning a graduate certificate from the University of Virginia.

The department achieved recertification with the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Criminal Justice Services Division, and is one of only eight Certified Law Enforcement Agencies in Portage County to be part of that collaborative.

Five families and 10 children were a part of the 12th annual Shop With A Cop event. Because of COVID-19, the children did not shop with officers at stores as usual, but emailed their wish lists so officers could shop for, wrap and deliver gifts.

The department issued 59 deer hunting permits. Through Feb. 11, 2021, 19 deer were harvested on private property and four on city property. Kills at Tinker’s Creek Park are not included in the figures because permits for hunting on state property are issued through ODNR.

“With a collaborative approach among many agencies, we were able to address the trepidations of the elderly community during a time when necessary resources were suddenly interrupted,” reported Byard.

“The newly developed PAST (Police and Seniors Together) program lead by Officer Vickie Yendriga facilitated many of the needed resources to provide comfort and relief.”

Byard said the department looks forward to resuming many community relation events that were canceled because of COVID-19, such as Safety Town, National Night Out, communitywide cleanup, None for Under 21 and the bicycle rodeo.

“While the law enforcement profession continues to evolve with increasing demands and ever-changing technologies, we will continue to grow more multifaceted every day,” said Byard. “We will decipher the best path forward during this time of accelerated change.”

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