By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — Police Chief Paul Donovan said an increase in crimes involving drugs, assaults and thefts means his department will be making approximately 500 more arrests this year than last year.
That’s considering Salem police made 2,167 arrests in 2012, according to Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten. There were 1,356 for the first half of the year, he said.
“We’re on pace to have over 2,700,” Patten said yesterday.
Other Southern New Hampshire police officials said they, too, are making more arrests this year as crimes involving drugs and thefts become more of a problem. People are stealing items they sell to get money to buy drugs, they said.
“The thefts are killing us, the drugs are killing us out there on the street,” Donovan told selectmen last week.
Some of those drug suspects are armed, he said.
“We are running into more and more guns lately,” Donovan said. “We weren’t seeing guns involved with drug deals a while back and now we are.”
Crimes have some common threads, he said.
“Most of the time, if there is a theft, there is a drug charge that goes with it,” the chief told selectmen. “A lot of times if there’s a weapon, there’s some kind of drug charge.”
The suspects are coming from Massachusetts and northern New Hampshire, he said.
It’s putting a strain on his department, Donovan said.
“We are seeing a big increase in the number of arrests and the amount of activity,” Donovan said. “It’s putting a lot of stress on the patrol guys. It’s also putting a lot of stress on investigations, prosecution and records.”
Two weeks ago, there were approximately 80 people arraigned in a single day at 10th Circuit Court in Salem, Donovan said. The town has just one prosecutor, he said.
“We had to pull in another supervisor to help just to be able to handle the court that day,” Donovan said.
He credited his officers with being proactive and arresting suspects before they commit more serious crimes.
In Londonderry, police Chief William Hart said his department is seeing a general rise in crime this year. No statistics were available.
“Our numbers are up,” he said. “We are seeing an increase in burglaries and thefts, which is really different than what we have seen in the last five or six years. I do think the burglaries are drug related.”
Plaistow police also are reporting more arrests this year. The department arrested 274 adults through June 30, compared to 225 for that same period last year. That included 13 burglary arrests and 136 on theft and robbery charges.
Pelham police Sgt. Michael Pickles said thefts from motor vehicles and heroin use are problems in his town. There have been about a dozen thefts this summer, he said.
“What I’ve seen is heroin is up and it seems to be in direct correlation with that,” he said. “The use of heroin has kind of exploded.”
In Windham, police Capt. Michael Caron said his department is also seeing more thefts.
“We’ve had a few more burglaries,” he said. “I think we’re seeing more drug-related (crimes). Unfortunately, there are a lot more drugs out there.”
Windham had made 200 arrests this year as of yesterday, compared to 313 in 2012, he said.