The City of Wheeling’s Police Department experienced a very different year in 2020.
Several changes and unforeseen trends took place with the types of calls officers were summoned to, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall calls for service were down by 7%, the biggest decrease in years.
Wheeling PD says this is largely due to the nationwide shutdown in the spring.
Call volume dropped below average levels, as schools and businesses closed, and most public gatherings were halted.
Most people stayed home through this time, which also contributed to the nearly non-existent traffic volume.
For specific crime related information, the data is divided into two areas – “Group A” offenses, which are generally more serious (homicide, robbery, sex crimes), and “Group B” offenses, which involve more nuisance, quality of life, property crimes and highway safety/traffic offenses.
“Group A” offenses (more serious crimes) was up slightly, however, “Group B” (less serious crimes) were down, the first in several years. The fluctuation in numbers is believed to be indirectly caused by the COVID-19 health crisis and staffing issues within the department. WPD was unable to get several new members trained and certified because of the state’s academy being canceled in the spring and later delayed.
In other categories, traffic enforcement was up, mostly because of the I-70 bridges project. A continued area of concern is the ongoing nationwide opioid epidemic. Overdose related calls and deaths were at a five-year high.
- Group A (more serious offenses) INCREASED by 3.8%
Categories that decreased from the previous year were:
- Assaults (Down 3.5%)
- Fraud (Down 11%)
- Larceny/Thefts (Down 8.5%)
Categories that increased from the previous year were:
- Burglary (Up 23%)
- Vandalism (Up 27%)
- Robbery (Up 82%) Note: 31 in 2020 vs. 17 in 2019
- Drug Offenses (Up 14%)
- Sex Offenses (Up 61%)
- Group B (less serious offenses) DECREASED by 4.6%
All Group B offenses (decreased slightly. With most public gathering, events and businesses closed, these numbers were slightly down compared to the previous year.
- Traffic Enforcement INCREASED by 41%
WPD continued to up its efforts to increase traffic enforcement, especially along the Interstate 70 corridor in 2020. Last year, there was a 17% decrease in crashes, mostly believed to be contributed to people staying at home during the spring shutdown.
- Drug Overdoses INCREASED by 51%
Drug-related overdoses have increased each of the last four years. In 2020, overdose related deaths also increased significantly over the previous year – up 69%. Drug overdoses were not just heroin related, but multiple types of narcotics. In addition to overdose related calls, WPD answered 214 medical calls with the Wheeling Fire Department. *Note: Overdose death numbers can change after annual statistics are released because of current pending cases with the state medical examiner’s office*
- False Alarm Calls DECREASED by 20%
The False Alarm Reduction Program was implemented in October 2016 with the goal to gradually decrease the number of false burglar alarms police were responding to in hopes to ease the burden on the patrol division. In the last year, the number of false alarms the department responded to from the previous year decreased by 20%. In the last four years, the alarm count has steadily declined overall by 36%.