“You don’t know what’s causing that,” Sergeant Robert Bettencourt said of the decrease in arrests and calls to service. “You’d like to think people are committing less crime, ideally that’s what you hope, but I think a lot of that has to do with the decimalization of marijuana.
“I don’t have the exact marijuana numbers but that will be in the full report. That’s why the numbers are kind of deceiving.”
Detailed crime statistics are slated to be included in the department’s annual report some time in March, Bettencourt said.
According to the preliminary stats, 700 arrests were made in 2011 compared to the department’s 10-year average of 880.8. There were 14,863 calls to service last year compared to the 15,925.6 department average over the last decade.
Bettencourt said the department’s arrests have been down ever since Massachusetts voters in 2008 approved a ballot initiative to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, making getting caught with less than an ounce of pot punishable by a civil fine of $100.
There were 43 drug arrests in 2011, a 49 percent decrease from 2010. Bettencourt said the department had 835 arrests overall in 2008 with 83 drug arrests.
Operating under the influence decreased 13 percent in 2011 and there was a 35 percent drop in liquor law violations, including a significant decrease in underage drinking parties.
Bettencourt said there were upwards of 100 instances of underage drinking four or five years ago before the department won a grant to help curb underage drinking.
“We are very happy with that,” Bettencourt said. “We have done a lot in that area working with Danvers kids. That was something the department was concerned about and did a lot of work in that area and its paying dividends.”
The department recently applied for another grant to help curb suicides and suicide attempts, which were up 90 percent with 29 in 2011. Psychiatric calls to service were up 48 percent.
Bettencourt attributes that uptick in part to the bad economy. He said the department will learn in February if they will be awarded a of $45,000 to $50,000 to send a clinical psychologist on suicide calls with officers.
“I think that obviously puts stress on families and people and I think that’s why [the are up],” Bettencourt said of the down economy. "Unfortunately there are more fights over money issues. It all goes hand in hand. … When the economy is tough people struggle more, fight more, argue more. It’s the same thing with why people break into cars more. Those things kind of go hand unfortunately.”
If that is the case, a sign of an improving economy in Danvers might be the fact that auto thefts were down 54 percent and larceny from motor vehicles were down 15 percent.
But Bettencourt said crimes against property are up overall with a 20 percent increase in house breaks while crimes against other people are down, including robberies being down six percent. But there are outliers in both crimes against property and people. Vandalism decreased 20 percent and aggravated assault increased 24 percent in 2011.
The town also saw its first murder since 2006, making for a 360 percent increase in that category from 2010.
Stephen Anastasi, 24, was indicted in the slaying of his father, by an Essex County grand jury about three weeks ago. Anastasi allegedly confessed to police that he beat and stabbed his father to death in November. Anastasi, who was allegedly on heroin when he committed the crime, originally blamed the incident on “aliens.”
“Because we haven’t had a murder in six years it looks like a 360 percent increase but realistically the murder was solved and we know what happened,” Bettencourt said. “Obviously you always hope that number is zero because we want all the numbers to be zero, or as low as they can get.”
“Overall I think Danvers is a safe place. We have incidents like anything else but sometimes the numbers can be deceiving. You always want to be cautious in general but Danvers is consistently a safe place to be but as always things happen.”
Justin A. Rice can be reached at email@example.com.