March 22, 2017

Editorial: Crime stats show Worcester becoming safer in long run

Print More

The city of Worcester recently released crime statistics for 2016. The news is generally positive.

[Scroll down to view a copy of the report.]

Among the 15 categories reported, 11 showed decreases in 2016 compared to the five-year averages.

Breaking and enterings were down nearly 22 percent compared to the five-year average. Arrests (minus-16.5 percent) and stabbings or slashings (minus-10.83 percent) also showed double-digit decreases over the five-year average.

Overall incidents were up 6.75 percent in 2016 compared to the five-year average. Motor vehicle thefts (7.27 percent), noise disturbances (16.56 percent) and traffic accidents (9.85 percent) were also higher in 2016 than the five-year average.

The biggest news in the report was the continued decline of violent crime as all five measured categories showed decreases compared to the five-year average.

More thoughts: Safety is central issue in downtown renaissance

While the eight murders in the city last year was the same number as in 2015, there were five fewer shooting incidents and 10 fewer shooting victims in 2016. There were also fewer stabbings or slashings in 2016 (112) than in 2015 (114).

The only year-over increases were seen in aggravated assaults, 718 in 2016 vs. 690 in 2015; and robberies, 434 vs. 424.

Moreover, all aspects of violent crime — homicides, aggravated assaults, shooting incidents, shooting victims, stabbings or slashings, and robberies — were down when measured against the five-year average.

Meanwhile, three of the four categories of property crime, breaking and entering, motor vehicle theft and vandalism, showed year-over-year increases, but only thefts outpaced the five-year average.

Not all the news was good, however. While 11 of the 15 categories showed declines compared to the five-year average, nine of the 15 categories showed increases compared to 2015.

Overall, there were 136,343 incidents reported in 2016, a 4.84 percent increase. However, in a letter to City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr., Police Chief Steven M. Sargent attributed the increase to more patrol-initiated calls.

“In 2016 we implemented new community policing initiatives to respond to areas of concern,” Sargent wrote. “The Neighborhood Response Team was established in June of 2016 to focus on issues surrounding quality of life and neighborhood revitalization. Officers in this unit are proactive in responding negative emerging crime trends. The team of officers seeks to identify problems and develop long-term solutions.”

Sargent attributed a 4.64 percent decline in arrests “to the work of our newly developed Crisis Intervention Team and Worcester [Program for Addiction Recovery] PAR. These two units within the department focus on connecting individuals with services and treatment rather than incarceration.”

In most areas of violent crime, Worcester continues to compare favorably to cities such as Hartford and Providence. But, as the yearly comparison shows, there is room for improvement.

In combatting crime, there is no singular solution. Crime is a multi-faceted problem that requires a multi-faceted approach, which Sargent acknowledged.

“We will continue to enhance our strategies of community policing, utilize new technology and work with our community partners to address issues of crime and promote the highest level of public safety,” he wrote.

It is the way these services are delivered, though, that makes the difference. Ultimately, the men and women of the Worcester Police Department are the face of effective policing strategies.

We concur with Sargent, who wrote, “Worcester remains one of the safest cities of its size in the northeast because of the hard work of our police officers and our city and community partners who collaborate with us to reduce crime and improve quality of life in all of our neighborhoods.”

Collaborating rather than fear-mongering — what a novel public safety concept; and one we can all wholeheartedly support.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *