Prince William County crime up over last year, down from decade prior

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Crime in Prince William County reached a seven-year high in 2022 but remained well below rates seen in the decade prior, according to data presented by county police Tuesday.

Police reported 18,385 crimes in 2022, up from 15,960 in 2021. The countywide crime rate rose to 37.7 per 1,000 residents last year, the highest it’s been since 2015 and surpassing pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

County Police Chief Pete Newsham was quick to point out that the crime rate remained well below levels seen prior to 2015, however.

Prince William County historical crime rate chart.

In the context of the last decade, the crime rate is still down from 2013, when the rate was 41 per 1,000 residents. In 2009, the crime rate reached 47.4.

Statewide, the commonwealth’s crime rate was 47.3.

“I don’t want to unnecessarily scare folks or make people think that Prince William County is not safe. Prince William County is very safe,” Newsham told the Board of County Supervisors during his report Tuesday.

According to the county’s annual report for 2022, the county’s violent crime rose to 2.7, up from 2.1 in the previous year. The county saw 20 homicides — double the number from 2021 — in 15 incidents last year, including the quadruple-murder in Dale City last October. Investigators closed 18 of those murders, and Newsham said he was confident the department was closing in on suspects in the remaining two. All 18 of the murders that have been closed involved a suspect who was known to the victim.

Major offenses between 2018 and 2022. (Courtesy Prince William County graphic)

“The offender and the victim knew each other, these … are not random cases. These are cases where folks know each other,” Newsham said.

On the roadways

According to police, traffic citations and reportable crashes were both up, with 4,626 crashes and 21,841 citations issued, compared to 4,386 and 18,741, respectively, in 2021.

Newsham said the plan to implement automated speed and red-light cameras would help the department, citing data that showed that when police ticketed certain problem areas for speeding and other infractions, crashes fell.

“If you do enforcement at intersections that are problematic with regards to crashes, you can have an impact on the number of folks that crash,” he said.

Newsham also said auto thefts were up in 2022 and particularly concerning. There were 571 motor vehicle thefts reported in 2022, up from 514 in 2021 and just 247 in 2019.

Newsham said the rise could be attributed to two things: social media posts about stealing certain cars and people leaving their cars running unattended.

“The stolen auto issue this year was particularly bad,” Newsham said. “Some person … decided to put out a posting on social media showing young people how to steal cars in a very easy fashion, particularly targeting Hyundais and Kias, and so we had a spike not just here in Prince William County but across the country on that.”

‘Response to resistance,’ firearms

In terms of what the department terms “response to resistance,” 27 suspects required medical transport as a result of physical altercations with police officers, 12 lacerations or abrasions were reported, three minor injuries or fractures were reported and two serious injuries — including one death — were reported.

The one death at the hands of police came in September. According to police, an undercover officer was attempting to buy fentanyl from a suspect — part of a joint operation between county and Manassas police — when suspects robbed and threatened the undercover officer with a handgun. Police shot and killed one of the suspects, 19-year old Jaiden Carter. Police said they recovered two illegal handguns from the scene.

Newsham shared concerns about the 126 firearms that were reported stolen from vehicles in 2022, saying that he supported legal gun ownership but that it necessitated responsibility in storing guns.

“That’s a lot of guns being taken. I would say that I’m a supporter of legally-owned guns in our community, but legally-owned guns have to be owned responsibly. And leaving a firearm in your vehicle is not responsible,” he said. “Once that gun is stolen out of your vehicle, it turns from being a legal firearm to an illegal firearm, and those are oftentimes the firearms that are used illegally in our community.”


Newsham said he’s hopeful that his department can approach full staffing levels within the next year. County police currently have 707 sworn officers, with 85 vacant sworn positions. In an effort to stem the decline in staffing, the Board of County Supervisors voted in December for an average 17.5% pay increase for officers, bumping the minimum officer salary from $52,749 to $62,000 a year. That starting salary also comes with a $10,000 hiring bonus.

The department has gone from holding two academies per year to four in hopes of getting recruits trained as quickly as possible.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can in this environment to increase our staffing,” Newsham said Tuesday. “What the board did … was very helpful in addressing the pay issue. … If we can keep our attrition slowed the way it has been and we can hire 100 officers in four academies in a year’s time, then we’re going to be a heck of a lot closer to our authorized staffing than we are today. So, I would like to do it in a year. In reality, it may take a little bit longer than that. But that’s the goal.”

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