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Criminal charges up 12 percent in 2001. Question is why?

Criminal charges filed in Harrison Superior Court during 2001 were up 12 percent over the previous year. Why? It’s anyone’s guess.
“I don’t know,” admitted Harrison County Prosecutor Ronald W. Simpson.
“We had more violent crime in 2000, with all the murders, so I have no idea,” said Simpson. “Maybe we’re just doing a better job; police are catching them.”
There were no murder charges filed last year, Simpson said, but battery charges — many, if not most, related to spouse abuse — were up more than 67 percent, from 89 in 2000 to 149 in 2001.
“People get frustrated with life, and I guess they take it out on the people closest to them,” Simpson said.
“We are not going to tolerate it, period!”
Simpson said the increase in court cases is likely the prosecution’s determination to file every case that surfaces and not drop any, even if requested by the victim.
“We have a ‘no-drop’ policy. If they won’t testify, we will try the cases anyway,” Simpson said. However, that hasn’t been necessary so far because most cases are resolved by plea agreement, but such cases could go to trial.
“We can certainly do that, because there’s other evidence besides the victim’s testimony, such as police photographs, statements made at the time, etc.,” Simpson said. “Unfortunately, children often witness this, and they can be witnesses in court. Neighbors can hear things … there are a lot of ways to get a conviction besides the victim’s testimony.”
Det. Richard Bauman of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. said computerized records of incidents reported to police last year show only 24 assault-type cases, which includes just 17 misdemeanor battery cases.
Apparently, many complainants are taking their case directly to the prosecutor, because the police records don’t include those types, Bauman said.
In some case, multiple charges are filed in connection with one incident, such as driving while intoxicated, public intoxication, resisting law enforcement and battery. This report separates those charges into each category, whether the charge is a felony or misdemeanor.
Misdemeanors carry a possible penalty of 60 days to a year in jail. Felonies range from six months to 50 years in prison. Murder carries a specific penalty of 55 years in prison, plus or minus 10 years, depending on circumstances. The death penalty can only be imposed under circumstances specified by Indiana law.
Of some 550 theft cases substantiated by detectives last year, only 148 resulted in a theft charge, which includes shoplifting and knowingly writing a bad check.
Those charges represent a two percent decrease in 2000. However, check deception charges, a misdemeanor, increased by 14 percent last year, when 171 cases were filed compared to 151 in 2000.
“Check deception becomes theft and check deception when a person writes a check on a closed account — that’s pretty much theft,” Simpson said, adding: “Although I am sure there are circumstances where a person’s account can be closed and they don’t know it.
“A simple check deception results from insufficient funds,” Simpson said, which aren’t made good by the writer.
When a bad check also becomes theft has nothing to do with the amount of the check, he added.
Drunk driving cases were up 17.6 percent last year, and repeat drunk driving cases rose 25 percent. “That, I think, is related to increased law enforcement, patrolling back roads or places where people try to slip home,” Simpson said. “Certainly lowering the threshold from .10 to .08” percent blood alcohol content, which took effect July 1, contributes to the increase.
Repeat drunk driving cases, a felony, means the offender will spend some time in jail. “Some people never learn from their prior mistakes,” Simpson said.
In some cases, drunk-driving charges also include a public intoxication charge. In those cases, police may not have seen the driver in action, although they can prove the cases through other evidence. “It gives the jury another option,” Simpson said.
Last year, detectives investigated three claims of rape, two robberies (one involved a firearm), 24 assault cases, 276 burglary cases, 569 thefts (other than vehicles), and 31 vehicle thefts, for a total of 905 cases. Of those, 876 were substantiated and 681 cases were cleared either by an arrest or closed due to a lack of evidence.
The high number of burglaries, Bauman said, is likely the work of two teams of burglars.
“We have a couple of groups hitting us, and we’re working on that,” Bauman said. “One detective has been assigned to work on burglaries.”
Already in January of this year, 59 burglaries have been substantiated and 38 cleared either by arrest or lack of evidence, according to police records.
Last year’s court cases also included 104 marijuana possession charges compared to 100 in 2000, and 61 other charges directly related to illegal drugs.