Marco Island may be perceived as a town like Andy Griffith’s TV hometown of Mayberry — a safe place where the cops probably don’t have many crimes to solve. However, Marco Island is one of the few local communities reporting an increase in crime.
Other local agencies, including Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Lee County have reported drops in crime when comparing 2010 to 2009.
“The M in Marco Island and Mayberry are the only similarity between the two communities,” said Marco Island Police Chief Thom Carr in a prepared statement Monday.
Reported thefts from vehicles saw the highest increase -- more than doubling from the previous year. This highly preventable crime indicates that people may be feeling a little too safe as most were from unlocked cars, officials said.
There were 28 reported thefts from vehicles in 2010 compared to 13 in 2009.
The increasing trend has continued thus far in 2011, Carr said.
Violent crime also skyrocketed statistically on Marco Island, increasing 80 percent. It’s important to note, however, that in terms of total violent crimes there were only 10 in 2009 and 18 in 2010 — relatively low in comparison to the 655 violent crimes and property crimes reported in the city of Naples in 2010.
Violent crimes and property crimes in Naples fell by more than 15 percent in 2010, reaching their lowest level in the city in at least a dozen years, the Naples Police Department reported earlier this month.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office recently reported that its reported violent crimes and property crimes were down 10 percent in 2010. The Fort Myers and Cape Coral police departments have also reported decreases in 2010, 6.9 percent and 11 percent respectively.
There are a small number of people responsible for a significantly large number of crimes on Marco Island, Carr said, citing the recent arrest of four men, who broke into 20 cars and committed 49 crimes in a very short period of time in January.
While domestic violence and child abuse in the home are virtually impossible for law enforcement to prevent, Carr said, other crimes such as street prostitution can be prevented.
Violent crimes, including rape, robbery and aggravated assault, which nearly doubled, are often caused by the common themes of greed, alcohol, extremely poor judgment and unacceptable anti-social behavior, but these do not lend themselves, like street-level drug trafficking, to prevention or eradication methods employed by law enforcement, Carr said.
Although many crimes can’t be prevented by the police, the Marco Island Police Department has a higher than average rate of solving such crimes. Solved crimes were up in 2010 to 34 percent compared to 31.5 percent in 2009.
Carr described these as “phenomenally high crime clearance rates.
“We would rather prevent crime than solve it,” he added.
Carr reminds people to remove keys from unattended vehicles; lock vehicles and homes; keep purses and valuables attended rather than left in shopping carts, and recognize that “e-mails indicating you have won $8.5 million in Rhodesian lottery are criminal scams designed to separate you from your money.”
Another prevention tactic is to call 911 immediately when you witness something suspicious, Carr said.
“We often hear ‘I didn’t want to bother you with something so trivial.’ Nothing is trivial and you are not bothering us,” he said.