Property crime and theft on the rise in St. Albans

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Warmer weather has brought more crime to the city of St. Albans, according to the police chief.

Officers have responded to around 1,000 911 calls every month since March.

Chief Joe Crawford says there's an uptick in crime every year when it gets warmer out, but it's starting to drain their resources.

"It drains our resources just like when we had the opioid epidemic where we were running the overdose calls, and we still get those," Crawford said.

The city has about 12,000 residents in eight square miles with 26 officers. They have responded to around 1,000 911 calls every month since March.

Crawford says when the temperature increased, so did property crime and theft against homes and businesses.

"They are looking for items they can maybe sell or pawn or whatever."

Crawford says there's a tent city just outside of city limits where 20 to 30 people are staying. He says they ride bikes into town and take advantage of free meals and services.

"The services and some of the things that are going on here in town that are trying to help people get exploited because people have bad motives. They come over and get the services but instead of going and working, they are going out and committing these petty crimes."

Because the tent city is outside of city limits, there's nothing the police department can do to control it.

Rene McGraw-Gorby lives on one of the streets that has been previously targeted for theft, her car was stolen just a few months ago. However, with extra patrols in the neighborhood she says the crime has gone down significantly.

"It seems to be turning around and coming back to the community that I grew up in and know," McGraw-Gorby said.

Chief Crawford says they will be down six officers in July due to one retirement. He has three new officers in the academy, and two officers on light duty and off the road.

The three officers in the academy will graduate in August, and then they will go to a field training program for three months.

He says they are trying to reinforce ordinances to crack down on criminal vagrancy and dumpster diving.