Small town sees increase in crime rate

Multiple students affected by recent events

Addie Lindenmeyer

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Gracie Hammond

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Payton Fenwick

Graphic by Addie Lindenmeyer, Gracie Hammond and Faye Smith

For the past year and a half, headlines containing words like “stabbing,” “drug raid” and “homicide” have become more apparent in local news. Since 2012, the number of violent crimes has risen from 266 to 384 in 2016, cited by KSN.com. Consequently, according to NeighborhoodScout.com, in 2016, when compared to communities of all sizes in America, Newton had a crime rate that was higher than 95 percent of states, cities and towns. Recent events including violent crimes as well as property and vehicular theft have caused residents to question the safety of their typically quiet town.

School resource officer Gary Littlejohn said the crime rate has noticeably increased in the last few years. According to the previously mentioned source, 673 property related crimes account for 763 reported annual crimes, while the remaining 90 are considered violent crimes.

“There are some things going up; burglaries and theft, even shootings apparently, if you haven’t noticed that in the news. That’s gone up quite a bit in the last year, year and a half. A lot of it has to do with drug usage,” Littlejohn said.

As a result of the increase in drug use and crime involving drugs, the Newton Police Department and surrounding departments have taken safety precautions. In recent months, multiple cities in Harvey County have worked together to reboot and add to the drug task force. The task force aims to crack down on drug use and by doing so affect the crime rate as a whole.

Several students and their families have witnessed this increase in crime. Sophomore Boone Roberson heard gunshots outside of his house, followed by the voices and sirens of police officers at his street corner. In another incident, junior Alexis Grattan rushed home after receiving a frantic phone call from her mother claiming that her 7-year-old brother was alone in the house while shots were fired just two houses down from theirs.

“I was horrified because when I got home he was crying and it was just terrifying to think that something like that could happen so close to where I live,” Grattan said. “What would have happened if I wasn’t there?”

Even with assurances from law enforcement, citizens continue to question their safety. Some families, including Roberson’s, have acknowledged the rising crime rate and have begun taking safety measures as a result.

“When I was a little kid I used to ride my bike to Santa Fe. My parents don’t really like to do that with my little sister now,” Roberson said.

Despite crime activity Littlejohn and the police department do not believe the public faces any greater risk while going about their average day. To ensure the safety of the citizens, Littlejohn urges the community, especially parents, to pay attention to their surroundings as well as the actions made by their children.

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