Harrisonburg-Rockingham criminal justice planner breaks down 33-year crime report

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 6:41 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Harrisonburg-Rockingham County criminal justice planner has compiled a report detailing crime and incarceration trends from 1986 to 2019 in both the city and county.

The report found that in Harrisonburg violent crime has increased by 332% over the 33-year span compared to a 11% growth in population, in Rockingham County violent crime increased by 152% while the population went up 57%.

The man who put the report together says while violent crime increased over the time span, the statistics aren’t meant to scare anyone.

“In no way is that an alarm call, that we are now in the same epidemic of violence that Philadelphia or Chicago is in, what it’s saying is that over the course of those decades our violent crime has risen in a bigger proportion than our population,” said Frank Sottaceti, the criminal justice planner for the city and county.

In fact, despite the overall increase in violent crime, numbers have been lower on average over the past decade compared to the early 2000s.

“When we look at the past decade I think what we’re seeing based on the data is that there is an uptrend now to the decrease in violent crime that’s occurred over the last decade before that,” said Sottaceti.

The report did not include data from 2020, which Sottaceti says will always be a statistical outlier due to the pandemic.

“During the COVID pandemic, people were home together, aggravated assaults went up, domestic violence crimes went up and that was all to be expected because people, just like I said about burglaries of residences didn’t occur because people were home all day,” he said.

The report also looked at incarceration numbers, and highlighted overcrowding at Middle River Regional Jail due to a number of inmates that the state should have transferred to state prisons.

“30 percent of the inmates at Middle River jail are state-responsible inmates where they could be transferred to the Virginia Department of corrections and out of that 30 percent, 11 percent are there for more than 90 days since they should’ve been transferred,” said Sottaceti.

Sottaceti will brief the Harrisonburg City Council on his full report at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

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