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PAWTUCKET â€“ The latest city crime statistics show an overall decline of 8.6 percent in crime from 2010 to 2011, including a sharp drop in juvenile incidents of almost 25 percent, which police officials are attributing to a number of homegrown factors.
â€śWe are very pleased to announce that our overall crime rate has gone down significantly,â€ť Police Chief Paul King said. â€śThatâ€™s also a positive sign that the many educational programs and partnerships we have developed with the community are having the desired effect.â€ť
Although the effect is difficult to quantify directly, police say the ongoing presence of School Resource Officers (SROs) in the high schools, the Gang Resistance Education And Training (GREAT) program in the middle schools and the Drug Awareness Resistance Education (DARE) program in the elementary schools have significantly reduced juvenile crime, and also contributed to potential incidents not developing into criminal violations at all.
â€śI realize for a lot of people whose perceptions may be colored by the latest crime story, especially, if itâ€™s in their neighborhood, that crime must seem like itâ€™s going up in Pawtucket and elsewhere,â€ť Mayor Donald R. Grebien acknowledged. â€śIt is true we have a long way to go to make Pawtucket as safe as it can be. But when you step back a bit to look at the big picture, the numbers show a very positive trend.
â€śThese latest statistics show clearly that, given the right tools and the ongoing commitment of our police department, crime can be reduced in our city. I am particularly encouraged that the programs which reach out to our young people are working well. And with the recent addition of our latest technology advances including online incident reporting and crime mapping, we have the tools to keep moving forward in the overall fight against crime,â€ť Grebien added.
From 2010 to 2011, total incident-based crime reports declined 8.63 percent. Violent crime was down even more sharply at 15.37 percent. Property crime also fell, by 5.73 percent.
In individual major categories for activity, robbery was down more than 18 percent, simple assaults fell almost 17.5 percent, arson by 54 percent, theft from buildings by 19 percent, vandalism by more than 11 percent and drug/narcotics violations by 7.8 percent.
â€śCrime overall is down but the major highlight is the decline in juvenile crime,â€ť noted Lt. Roberto DaSilva, who also credited the work of the departmentâ€™s Youth Bureau and the city Juvenile Hearing Board.
In percentage terms, overall juvenile incidents last year were down 62 percent from the 2001 peak and 24.7 percent from 2010. Juvenile arrests last year were about 35 percent below the 2001peak and 19.5 percent below the 2010 figures.
Maj. Arthur Martins said keeping juvenile crime down is also a key to keeping adult crime down as those youths mature.
â€śWe canâ€™t predict the future but thatâ€™s what we hope to see,â€ť Martins said. â€śWe also have to credit the school department for their support with the school-based programs. We wouldnâ€™t be seeing this kind of success without their assistance and involvement.â€ť
Pawtucket police statistics show a general drop-off trend in reported juvenile-related (age 17 and under) incidents from a peak of 1,707 incidents, and 695 arrests, reported in 2001 to 832 incidents reported in 2009. After a slight rise in 2010, the trend continued down to 647 incidents, and 450 arrests, in 2011, which police officials believe reflects school based programs taking greater hold and producing results.
Police pointed to 2009 as a watershed year because it was the first year officers established a presence in all city schools simultaneously. A reversal trend in juvenile arrests and incidents was seen beginning in 2009.
In 2007, the GREAT program, which also includes a teaching component, began in the cityâ€™s junior high schools. The SRO program followed in 2008 and juvenile arrests have shown consistent progress, to the low of 450 in 2011. Police say the daily interactions with students, faculty and staff are paying off.
â€śThe SROs and GREAT officers have been able to intervene before a problem becomes a crime. This is the essence of community policing and crime prevention. Once a crime has been committed one of our community members has become a victim, therefore, we would rather prevent crimes than solve crimes.â€ť Martins said.
â€śWe started to see a dramatic decline in the amount of reported youth crime starting in 2009 to the present,â€ť he continued. â€śThe officers assigned to the schools not only help reduce and prevent crime by their presence, but also act as mentors, provide advice and guidance and are good role models for students. Now they increasingly see the police department and its officers as an ally, not an adversary.â€ť
Police have also taken a proactive approach to overall crime prevention, according to Martins, including speaking to community groups and distributing fliers to crime watch groups. Recently the department also introduced the RAIDS online crime mapping tool and the Coplogic system for reporting minor crimes and incidents, readily available to anyone with computer access.
The department has also conducted a successful Citizens Police Academy, for youth and adults, to allow residents to see first-hand how crime develops, how it can be prevented and how the public can assist the police with public safety.
In significant categories that showed an increase, theft of motor vehicle parts rose by almost 18 percent, motor vehicle theft by about 6 percent and weapons law violations were up more than 26 percent.
Chief King said, â€śWe will be addressing the rise in theft of auto parts and stolen autos by concentrating our resources in those areas when these crimes are occurring. We also urge members of the public to continue to report suspicious activity to the police department. Only with the publicâ€™s assistance and cooperation can we, as a community, achieve success.â€ť