CRESTVIEW — Battery and burglary are the top two crimes in unincorporated areas like Laurel Hill, Baker and Holt, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.


CRESTVIEW — Battery and burglary are the top two crimes in unincorporated areas like Laurel Hill, Baker and Holt, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, or OSCO.



In 2012, the OCSO handled 281 battery cases, up 76 from the prior year. The Crestview Police Department reported 443 counts of simple battery.



"At least 75 to 85 percent (of the battery cases) are domestic related," OCSO Lt. Tommy Frederick said.



Often, a victim may not press charges, but officers can still take the suspect into custody under Florida law, which allows the state to press charges.  



The Crestview PD reported 256 counts of petit larceny, according to police Maj. Kenneth Bundrick.



Such incidents rise from economic pressure, officials said.



"A lot of people are out of work and stressed about how they are going to pay their bills,” Frederick said, adding that mounting stress from unemployment and foreclosure threats can drive people to extreme behavior.



However, such crimes aren’t restricted to a recession, officials said.



"We also have a lot of people who go out and steal, regardless if the economy is good or bad,” Frederick said.



Crimes of opportunity contribute to the problem.



"About 95 percent of car burglaries are from unlocked cars," Frederick said. "A very low percentage of vehicle burglaries are from when vehicles are broken into."



The OCSO also reported an increase in Baker Acts, which occur when law enforcement officials, among others, can initiate transporting people to mental health facilities for involuntary examination.  



In 2012, there were 98 incidents involving Baker Acts in Crestview, according to the OCSO. So far this year, Crestview has had more than 20.



Serious crime remains low in Crestview, with one homicide and one forcible rape reported.



In encouraging news, OCSO officers reported improved response times by two minutes, Frederick said. The previous average response time had been about nine minutes.



Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or matthewb@crestviewbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.