The total number of crimes fell last year in Somervell County, although the violent crimes of rape and robbery rose. Burglaries were down, but they're up so far this year after a suspected burglary ring struck the county.
The Texas Department of Public Safety's annual report of Uniform Crime Reporting statistics showed Somervell County with one of the lowest crime rates statewide, not surprising since it's the second-smallest county in Texas.
The total number of crimes recorded last year in the county was 102, a drop of almost 30 percent from 144 in 2009.
Murder is a rare occurrence and Somervell County and there were none recorded in 2010 or 2009. But data for last year included two rapes and two robberies, compared with none in 2009.
Aggravated assaults fell from seven in 2009 to three last year. Burglaries also were down from 42 in 2009 to 25 in 2010. Larceny also slid from 92 in 2009 to 67 last year, while the number of auto thefts remained the same at three.
Derrell McCravey, Somervell County Sheriff's Department's chief deputy, said when the economy picks up, as it did somewhat last year, crime rates tend to go down.
However, the major crime statistics for the county so far this year may show an uptick, especially in crimes such as burglary, McCravey added.
Last week, for instance, the department busted three men after an attempted burglary at the Philipps 66 gas station and convenience store on U.S. Highway 67. The men are from the Dallas area and are suspects in similar crimes in Hood, Johnson, Parker and Erath counties where similar crimes have occurred, according to law enforcement authorities.
McCravey said that two additional suspects in those crimes have fled to Tennessee.
"It's definitely a ring," McCravey said.
Last month the Wilson brothers' Chevron station on U.S. 67 also was burglarized. The crime was caught on video.
"We do know for certain they are the ones who got to Wilson's," McCravey said, referring to three men arrested in the early hours last Monday morning.
Sheriff's deputies had been on the alert that there might be another attempted burglary as the ring struck again. An observant patrol officer spotted a vehicle slowing down on U.S. 67 at Rodeo Hill just east of the Phillips 66 and discovered a pry bar and sweaty gloves and masks in the back seat. The driver's license had been suspended and the front and back plates on the vehicle did not match, McCravey said.
Officers later discovered a pry bar stuck in the door at the Phillips 66 station.
The three men remain in jail and have been charged with burglary and engaging in criminal activity offenses, in addition to driving with an invalid license for the driver.