SEE ALSO: Cracking the case as burglaries, thefts drop in York County

A lot of the same crimes happen all over York County.

But some areas see less crime, and that can have an impact on crime clearance rates.

The clearances, however, don't provide a fair assessment of a department's capabilities to combat crime and make arrests, said Chief Mark Bentzel of Northern York County Regional Police.

"In my opinion, it is not a good tool to judge the effectiveness of a given department ... although many people think it can be used for that purpose, but the information does not adjust for uncontrollable variables," said Chief Wes Kahley of York City Police.

Lower Windsor Township doesn't have many violent crimes, such as robberies, which allows officers to focus more time on property crimes, said Chief David Sterner.

Only one robbery occurred in the township between 2009 and September, according to the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System. Police cleared that case as well as 66 percent of the incidents of vandalism reported during the same time period, according to an analysis of the UCR crime data by The York Dispatch.

York City has a higher crime rate compared to other municipalities. City police also have a higher call volume compared to other departments.

City police cleared 9 percent, or 306, of the 3,261 incidents of vandalism between 2009 and this September. The department cleared 15 percent, or 125, of the 821 robberies over the same time period.


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"We have issues of much larger cities, but we don't have the resources or manpower allocations to adequately deal with those problems at times," Kahley said. "City officers may not have the fanciest cars, uniforms or equipment, but we learn to get the job done through hard work and ingenuity."

Swayed figures: Crime rates also can be affected by a small number of people.

"Your numbers can be swayed dramatically by a small group of people committing a lot of crimes in a short period of time," Bentzel said.

For example, a group of people could go on a vandalism spree over a weekend, which would drive up the total number of vandalism crimes, he said. Until those crimes are cleared, it would appear there's a vandalism problem when there might not be.

The crime reporting system can be helpful to police. Some departments use it to their advantage.

"It's a good barometer to see what's going on out there," said Chief Arthur Smith of West Manchester Township Police.

Kahley said his department uses crime statistics on a weekly basis to see what crimes are happening. The department can then deploy officers to hot spots in the city, he said.

Springettsbury Township Police Sgt. Tony Beam said his department uses the numbers in the same way.

As a department that serves a number of municipalities, Northern York County Regional gives statistical updates to its police commission during monthly meetings, Bentzel said.

Accuracy: However, the crime reporting system might not always be accurate, Kahley said.

He said his department cleared a number of crimes that are listed as not being cleared in the system. He's not sure why the disparity occurs.

"I know our homicide clearance rate is normally in the high 90 percent range but the (system) shows us as only clearing out one homicide in 2010," he said.

Each individual police department is responsible for putting data into the system, said state police Sgt. Anthony Manetta.

Although training is provided, human error can sometimes lead to inaccurate figures.

"We depend on people to put it in correctly," Manetta said.

-- Reach Greg Gross at 505-5434, ggross@yorkdispatch.com, or follow him on Twitter at greggrss.