MORGANTOWN – Violent crimes in Morgantown have been on a steady decline over the last decade while nuisance crimes and non-violent offenses have seen an uptick recently.
“We have significantly reduced the number of violent activities in and around the downtown area but we have had more of the alcohol fueled or drug fueled type of issues in and around, not just the downtown area, but in other parts of the city as well,” explained Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston on WAJR’s Talk of the Town with Dave & Sarah.Listen to "Dave & Sarah | January 7, 2020" on Spreaker.
In 2019, the Morgantown Police Department dealt with 1,404 Group A offenses, which includes crimes such as murder, assault, arson, aggravated assault, etc. Go back to the 12-month period covering 2009-2010, in the city there 2,041 Group A offenses logged.
“We’re on our eighth consecutive year of decline for all of those Part 1 crimes,” emphasized Preston.
While there has been a steady decline in violent offenses in the city, non-violent crimes have entered the spotlight. Offenses that are often connected to drugs and alcohol have received more attention from the police who are not answering as many calls for violent crime. With fewer violent crimes to deal with, officers have been freed up to patrol other areas.
Officers have been placed on foot patrol in the downtown areas, along the rail trails and around the parks but that has spurred an unintended consequence that has now grabbed the attention of many in the city.
“Many of the people doing activities in the parks and on the rail trails were having to confront these officers and they were moving into other places and became even more visible. Now, they’re not out of sight in abandoned properties or hidden in the woods along the rail trails.”
Among the activities Preston was referring to, illicit drug use that was once mostly hidden from public view, is now taking place in much more exposed settings. The increased visibility of the issues regarding addiction and homelessness has kickstarted a larger community-wide discussion on addressing the social issues that are plaguing downtown Morgantown.
Those issues have created a negative perception of the city, when in fact, major violent crimes have continually trended downward over the last decade.