Medford police have recorded a soaring number of cases involving counterfeit cash and weapons violations so far this year, with both types of crime jumping more than 50 percent.
From January through July, the agency handled 237 counterfeit cases, a jump of 75.6 percent from the 135 cases seen in those months a year ago. Weapons violations jumped to 148, a 57.5-percent increase from 94 a year earlier.
Medford Police Chief Tim George said the counterfeit numbers are "alarming," but added it's not unexpected as color printers get better and cheaper and counterfeiters hone their skill.
"People are getting better at it," George said.
He said he is actually encouraged by the number of weapons violations because it means more weapons are out of the hands of felons. The category includes carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, being a felon in possession of a weapon and shooting in a prohibited area, among others.
"That's what I consider a good number," George said. "Most of the weapons-law violations are stuff that we're taking. They are truly preventing crime. I'd like to see that number in the 70-percent range."
Robberies also increased, with 54 reported so far in 2013, compared with 39 during the same period in 2012. George said the increase in robberies can be tied to substance abuse, because many users need a quick means to pay for their habit.
"Those are desperate people," George said.
Burglaries and thefts for 2013 both increased by 17 percent between January and July.
Some types of crimes decreased, including DUII and vandalism.
Assaults dropped to 867 from 941, about an 8-percent drop, but George pointed out that more serious aggravated assaults increased to 166 from 156.
Arson also decreased slightly, dropping to 31 from 34.
Police said that while crime is up in some categories, the department's clearance rate — which includes arrests made, district attorney's office referrals and closed cases — is above the national average for similar-sized police agencies. The clearance rate for Type 1 crimes such as assault, robbery and theft is 46 percent, about 16 percent above the national average, George said.
For Type 2 crimes, such as counterfeiting, weapon violations, vandalism and drug offenses, the clearance rate is 82 percent, 27 percent higher than the national average, he said.
"That's really where the rubber meets the road. It's what you're doing with it," George said.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or email@example.com.