Violent crimes in Smith County saw an uptick in the past year largely due to increases in rape and murder offenses, according to the FBI 2018 Uniform Crimes Report.

The FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program breaks down violent crime by murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The report collects data annually from October to October.

In 2018, Smith County violent crimes totaled 272 offenses, while 2017 offenses were 252.

Rape nearly doubled within a year with 55 reported in 2018 and 29 reported in 2017.

While an exact reason for increased rapes could not be pinpointed, Larry Christian, Smith County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, said the increase could be due to more victims reporting assault.

“A lot of sexual assaults go unreported,” Christian said. “They feel like they’re ashamed or embarrassed. We call that the second victimization.”

Too many times sexual assault offenders get off because of a lack of reporting. The perpetrator being arrested can be a part of the victim’s healing process, he said.

“Anyone who is victimized in sexual assault needs to come forward,” Christian said. “No one affected by sexual assault needs to carry that on their own.”

He said a lot of times sexual assaults are committed by people the victim knows, such as a friend or someone in their social settings.

Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter totaled eight last year compared to the three in 2017.

These included the beating death of 4-month-old Sofia Ibarra in June 2018, and a murder-suicide that same month, among other crimes. Ibarra’s father, Andres Guadalupe Ibarra, 21, pleaded guilty to capital murder in connection with Sofia’s death and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in May 2019.

Homicides go up and down within any given year, and it’s not unusual to see fluctuations, Christian said.

Robbery decreased from 23 offenses to seven in a year. Aggravated assault increased slightly from 197 to 202 cases.

Aggravated assault is defined as assault with the use of a weapon/deadly force or causing serious bodily harm, according to the FBI.

While reports of violent crime increased, the county saw a decrease in property crime in 2018. A total of 1,345 offenses were reported in 2018, while 2017 saw 1,829 offenses.

Property crime offenses are broken down into four categories of burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft or arson.

Burglary went from 609 to 409 offenses within the year. Larceny theft decreased similarly as well with 747 cases reported in 2018 compared to 996 cases in 2017.

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report program, larceny theft means the “unlawful taking, carrying, leading or riding away of property from the possession or constructive possession of another.”

Motor vehicle theft went down from 224 cases in 2017 to 189 cases in 2018. Arson offenses remained the same with three reports both years.

Christian said property crimes normally indicate a drug problem. People with drug issues often need to support their habit by stealing property.

“If you make an impact on drug cases, then your property crimes should significantly decline,” he said. “Our patrol division here puts top priority on enforcing drug laws because we know ultimately that’s going to make the county safer to live.”

The sheriff’s office narcotics unit takes an aggressive stance on drug enforcement in the county with proper training and four K-9 units for drugs and tracking, Christian added.

“If we can make a significant impact on the use of illicit narcotics, we can make a significant impact on property crimes and violent crimes,” he said.

TWITTER: @ZWellerman

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I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.