The Ridgefield police made arrests in 25% of the 188 criminal offenses they recorded last year, according to a report presented to the Police Commission on Feb. 14. Nineteen other crimes were cleared through “exceptional means,” giving the department an overall clearance rate of 35% in 2018.
“Incidents versus arrests — you want to have the number of arrests as high as you can,” said George Kain, chairman of the Ridgefield Police Commission. “Nationwide, the clearance rate for major offenses is 20%. We’re at 35[%], that’s pretty good.”
Clearing a crime doesn’t necessarily mean a suspect was arrested, and it does not determine whether an arrest resulted in a conviction.
“Clearance is either we make an arrest, or [there is] an exceptional clearance — which is defined by the feds as something happening that’s outside the control of the law enforcement agency,” said Major Stephen Brown of the Ridgefield Police Department. “The person died, the person was in jail somewhere else for some other offense, prosecution was declined — like we did an affidavit, and for whatever reason it was declined — or lack of cooperation from a victim.”
The annual report is sent to the FBI through the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which gathers data on the number and types of crimes around the country.
“It’s something that we report to the FBI, so that the FBI has a better understanding of what’s happening with crime in the United States,” said Brown.
The numbers were in line with other departments — Wilton police reported a clear rate of 32% in 2018.
Identity theft, fraud
Crimes of impersonation — offenses that include “falsely representing one’s identity or position,” for profit or gain, according to the FBI — were the most-commonly cited offense at 45.
Ridgefield police made one arrest in the 45 offenses and two others were cleared by exceptional means, giving the department a 7% clear rate.
“When people come in with some identity theft complaints, they’re going to come in and say, ‘I don’t want this investigated, I just need this documented,’” said Police Chief Jeff Kreitz. “How do we make an arrest and how do we clear it?”
“We can interpret that as a lack of cooperation and exceptionally clear that,” Brown explained.
Other crimes of fraud and impersonation had similarly low clear-rates.
Police were unable to make an arrest or exceptionally clear three cases of identity theft, two cases involving “false pretense/swindling,” one case of credit card fraud, and one case of wire fraud reported that were all reported in 2018.
Vandalism, stolen cars
There were 42 crimes of vandalism — the second-highest number of crimes reported to the feds last year — that resulted in 12 arrests and 12 exceptional clearances, a 57% clear-rate.
Thefts from buildings — separate from shoplifting, and defined as “a theft from within a building which is either open to the general public or where the offender has legal access,” by the FBI — also had a low clearance rate.
Out of 30 offenses reported in 2018, no theft from buildings were cleared by arrest. Four were cleared through exceptional means, good for a clear-rate of 13%.
There were no arrests or exceptional clearances in three cases of burglary.
In “all other larceny” cases, Ridgefield police made one arrest out of seven reported offenses — a 14% clear-rate.
Arrests for larcenies from motor vehicles, and stolen cars, were also low. Of 17 reported thefts from a motor vehicle, three resulted in an arrest, slightly below a 18% clear-rate.
As for the eight cars that were stolen, four arrests were made — all in towns outside of Ridgefield.
Kreitz highlighted the drop in motor vehicle thefts and other types of larceny year-to-year. There were 18 cars stolen in town in 2017, a 55% drop.
“The main reason for the decrease … is the awareness,” Kreitz told the commission. “We’ve been pumping it out on social media, through the paper — it’s not just us who have been the victim, but it’s throughout entire state and the local area.”
He also attributed the decline in car thefts to “the diligence of our officers and of people calling in suspicious vehicles through all hours of the night.”
The stolen cars sparked a brief discussion.
“Are most of the cars that are unlocked, [do they] also have the keys in the ignition?” asked commissioner Nicholas Perna.
“Correct,” said Kreitz.
Many modern cars have a key fob that only needs to be inside the car for the ignition to work, he explained.
“And the vehicles that are being entered are unlocked as well,” he added. “Occasionally ... somebody will leave a wallet or a purse on the front seat and we’ll get a window smashed, but that’s a completely different group than the one stealing cars.”
High clearance
Ridgefield police had higher clear-rates for crimes involving intimidation, shoplifting, simple assault, forgery, and drugs.
Police made an arrest in all four of the crimes of intimidation reported to the feds, a 100% clearance rate.
Four cases of shoplifting reported during the year all resulted in an arrest, another 100% clear rate.
The stickup of the Branchville Subway restaurant in May was the the sole robbery reported in 2018. That case was cleared through exceptional means, after police implicated Alvin Robertson, 55, in October. Robertson was apprehended by the police in Monroe, where he also faced charges for robbing another Subway restaurant, as well as a bank.
In cases of simple assault — fights or arguments that escalate to physical contact, but without major injury or weapons brandished — Ridgefield police made an arrest in 10 out of 11 reported cases, a 91% clearance rate.
The clear-rate for forgery cases was also high. Of four cases reported in 2018, Ridgefield officers made three arrests and there were no exceptional clearances, for a 75% clear-rate.
Drug and narcotics violations also resulted in a 100% arrest rate. Of the seven drug and narcotics offenses reported in 2018, Ridgefield police made eight arrests.
“There can be multiple arrests within an incident,” said Brown.
“The chief has pushed officers to do relentless follow-up on the cases where we do have probable cause,” he added. “We’re really pushing to make sure that these are followed through right to the end.”