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Shoplifting driving up crime rate in Washington

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WASHINGTON, N.C. - Washington's police chief is responding to recent statistics that show his city has a higher crime rate than most other cities across the east.

It’s something that came to light last week when Greenville's police chief compared his crime rate to others in our area.
     
Surprising to most, Washington topped that list.
     
It's the general consensus around town.

"We have no problems here with safety in Washington," said L.D. Thomas, Dellinger's Pawn Brokers owner.

That’s why people were caught off guard to learn the part 1 crime rate in Washington topped the list in 2012 when compared with other cities across the east, including Greenville, Kinston, Rocky Mount and Goldsboro.

"It surprises me, it really does," said Darla Burbage, who lives in Washington.

So 9 On Your Side is digging deeper to find out why.

Washington Police Chief Stacy Drakeford says the city's violent crime rate is relatively low, with just one murder and 25 robberies in 2012. That makes property crime to blame for the higher rate.  

"We know that we cannot stop everybody from shoplifting. And once again, that is our number one problem in the city,” said Drakeford. “It's not murder. It's not rape. It's not aggravated assault. It is not motor vehicle theft. It is larcenies."

Chief Drakeford says bigger retailers see the most shoplifting, with police reporting every incident, no matter how small.

To crack down, he's choosing to be proactive, rather than reactive.

"Putting officers in specific zones, having them get out of cars, walking in the stores, walking in 24 hour stores, walking in our neighborhoods," said Drakeford.

But Chief Drakeford says police simply can't be everywhere, every time. So lowering the crime rate in the city will require help.  

"It is a total effort, the police department and the citizens of this community to help solve this problem," said Drakeford.

Despite the high crime rate, Chief Drakeford says they're solving about 50 percent of them, which is well above the state average.

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