Sharp drop in Isle of Wight crime

Published 6:04 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

DUIs, drugs, assaults and thefts — in that order — were the most common offenses resulting in arrests last year in Isle of Wight County. 

Overall, however, the number of reported incidents has dropped by 45 percent from 10 years ago, from 1,297 in 2008 to 704 in 2018, according to statistics from the annual Crimes in Virginia for 2008 and 2018 and compiled by the Virginia State Police. 

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Arrests are also down by nearly 26 percent in those same ten years, according to the report. 

The Town of Smithfield and Surry County saw similar drops in the number of reported incidents, 45 and 42 percent, respectively. Surry County had a larger decrease in the number of arrests last year compared to 10 years ago, by 53 percent. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Isle of Wight Sheriff James Clarke said he’d like to think the drop in the county is due to his agency being more proactive. 

The dedicated Carrollton patrol, added a few years ago, has helped, as well as vigilant residents and business owners and deputies talking to people, said Clarke.

“More eyes, more visibility, more deterrence,” he said. 

When crime does happen, deputies are there to quickly respond and that leads to arrests, said Clarke.

The areas along Route 17 in Carrollton have become especially vulnerable to crime in recent years due to the build-up of houses and businesses, as well as the proximity to the larger metropolitan areas via the James River Bridge and through Suffolk. 

Deputies have dubbed it the “corridor of crime.” 

The top three reported incidents in Isle of Wight for 2018 were larceny, simple assault and drugs. 

“I don’t think the drug problem will ever go away,” said Clarke.

In Isle of Wight the most prevalent substance leading to arrests is marijuana — and the same holds true statewide, according to the report. Clarke attributes the arrests to deputies being assigned to federal and state drug task forces. Clarke said there have been some opioid arrests, and they take overdoses seriously. 

Clarke said another driving distraction is rivaling alcohol and that’s texting while driving. Sometimes a deputy will pull a driver over on a suspected DUI, but it’s not that, it’s phone use, he said. 

Clarke said his agency is also trying to get people to lock their car doors. 

People move here and think they’re in the bucolic country, but individuals are coming to Isle of Wight to steal things, and the Eagle Harbor area is particularly vulnerable, he said. 

Yearly crime statistics reflect what occurred in a locality that past year, and Clarke predicts a spike in the number of pornography arrests for 2019.

The Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office has a deputy dedicated to those crimes and so far this year there have been several arrests. 


Drug-related incidents moved into the top three reported offenses in Smithfield for 2018, edging out destruction of property and vandalism from ten years ago. The most reported offense for 2018 was larceny, followed by simple assault.

As for arrests in Hamtown, the top three were for drugs and DUI, with drunkenness and assault tied for third. 

There was no arrest data available for 2008. 

Smithfield Police Chief Alonzo Howell said the town’s crime rate, like most localities across the United States, is going down. 

Howell is hesitant, however, to take too much credit for the decline because if it goes up again, he’d have to take credit for that too. 

Howell would like to think it’s due to a concerted effort by police and a community becoming more educated about what to report. 

Plus, residents are learning to lock their car doors, he said. 

As with Isle of Wight, marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug fueling arrests in the town, said Howell. 

With the talk of legalizing pot, some folks think it’s O.K. to use it, but if the state does go that route, we will have to deal with the aftermath, said Howell.

The public will still need to be educated on what one can and cannot do with marijuana, such as driving, he said. 


The number of reported offenses last year in Windsor dropped by 19 percent from five years ago. Information from 2008 was not available. The top three reported offenses, and arrests, in Windsor last year were for drugs, assault and DUI.

“Those are the social issues of the day, aren’t they?” said Windsor Police Chief Rodney “Dan” Riddle.

Riddle said assaults are out of the realm of what the police can control. His department likes to focus on teaching people how to prevent burglaries, robberies, credit card theft, fraud — those sorts of crimes. 

Drugs and alcohol are a social issue, said Riddle, adding, “You can’t legislate morality.”

Riddle wanted to point out that with an agency as small as Windsor, statistics can be misleading, as a small change one way or another looks bigger than it may actually be. 

Riddle said most of the arrests in Windsor are from those passing through town and not Isle of Wight residents.

Officers pull over a driver for a traffic issue and “one thing leads to another,” he said.

Riddle is happy with the work his officers are doing and that his department jumps on issues quickly as they arise. 

Surry County

The three most frequently reported incidents for Surry County in 2018 were larceny, simple assault and drugs. Assaults and drugs were joined with trespassing as the top three arrest categories. 

Reported drug-related offenses were not in the top four 10 years ago, or even five years ago, according to the crime report. 

Ten years ago, assaults still generated the most arrests, with DUIs in second. Tied for third in arrests were bad checks, drugs and trespassing. 

Surry County Sheriff Carlos Turner was pleased to see that breaking and entering incidents were down. In 2018 there were 11 reported cases of burglary, down from 37 in 2013, according to the Crime Reports. 

Turner attributes that to better educated residents, heightened technology and deputies making regular patrols in designated zones throughout the county. 

Turner said there are still cases of breaking and entering, but “not as much as before.”

Turner said his agency has made a special effort to educate residents on various technologies and said proper lighting and camera systems are good bets for securing a property. 

As for drugs, like Isle of Wight and state-wide, marijuana is the most prevalent drug generating arrests. Turner said most cases stem from traffic stops or when deputies go to a residence and smell it. 

Turner believes that legalizing marijuana is coming, especially for simple possession — a charge he doesn’t think requires jail time. But right now, Turner said, his agency must enforce the laws currently on the books. 

Overall, Turner is satisfied with the report and the falling rate of crime in Surry.

“I’m proud of the great work the deputies are doing to keep the crime rate down.”  {/mprestriction}