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The Athens-Clarke County Police Department stands on Lexington Road on Thursday Jan. 28, 2021 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Haleigh Terhune)

Crime in Athens has decreased more overall in 2020 and 2021 in the wake of the coronavirus than the last five years.

Lt. Shaun Barnett of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department said Athens saw a 6.3% decrease in crime in 2020 from 2019, and the lowest cumulative number of total offenses in the last five years. So far in 2021, overall crime has remained low.

“As we stand so far in 2021 for all combined offenses we’re at about 5.5% lower than we were at this time last year,” Barnett said.

Barnett said as more things open and scale back on restrictions, crime may increase, but there are several things that contribute to crime increases.

“As people are out more, unfortunately, you have more opportunity to commit crime,” Barnett said.

March 2020 had 43 burglaries, compared to 41 in March 2019. According to graphs by the ACCPD, March 2021 saw a decrease in burglaries with 31 total.

March 2020 had 73 entering auto crimes, while March of the previous year had 86, according to ACCPD graphs. In March 2021, there were 57 entering auto crimes. March 2020 also saw eight robberies in Athens in comparison to 11 in 2019. However, in March 2021, the number of robberies declined to three according to the ACCPD graphs.

While overall crime is lower, there are two areas where crime has increased in comparison to last year, according to data from graphs by the ACCPD which highlight five areas of crime.

In March 2020 there were 18 motor vehicle thefts compared to 22 in 2019. In March 2021 they increased to 31, according to graphs by the ACCPD.

Barnett said motor vehicle offenses are increasing currently due to catalytic converter thefts, as the value of the precious metals they contain has increased. Additionally, he said this is something not unique to Athens, happening in many other jurisdictions.

“This is really a nationwide or worldwide trend,” Barnett said.

According to a graph by the ACCPD, March 2020 had the lowest number of aggravated assaults in the past three years, at 21. In comparison, March 2019 had 33 aggravated assaults. Meanwhile, March 2021 had 31 aggravated assaults, showing an increase from the previous year but a decrease from 2019.

“Aggravated assaults are increasing,” Lt. Barnett said. “We’re at almost 12% higher than we were at this time last year.”

Barnett said although overall crime has decreased in Athens, this hasn’t affected staffing since the ACCPD was already short-staffed. In order to assist with the short staffing, the ACCPD uses predictive crime maps to determine where to allocate the most resources, Barnett said.

“If we see a crime trend happening in a certain area, we’ll allocate those resources to that area to combat that specific trend,” Barnett said.

Additionally, the ACCPD provides an interactive map on its website where people can go and see real time updates of crime happening in Athens, as well as the type of crime being committed.