Residents of Rock Hill got a hopeful report on local crime rates for last year, and police efforts to address specific problem areas seem to be one of the main reasons.
The Rock Hill Police Department reported earlier this month that robberies were down by nearly 25 percent, while simple assaults, forgery, credit card fraud, weapons violations and resisting arrest incidents were lower than two years ago.
Overall, the violent crime rate dropped by a little more than 9 percent from 2012 to 2013, but it went down by 19 percent from the 2001 to 2012 average, according to the police department’s statistician.
Citywide, aggravated assaults decreased from 235 in 2012 to 221 last year, the lowest level since at least 2001. Homicides last year returned to so-called “normal levels” after a spike in 2012, dropping from 8 in 2012 to 4 last year.
Both the number of residential burglaries and auto thefts hit their lowest level since 2001. Auto thefts decreased by nearly 25 percent in 2013 compared to 2012.
Not all crimes decreased. After a drop in 2012, commercial burglaries increased by nearly 10 percent last year, but still were down by nearly 50 percent compared to the 2001-2012 average.
Vehicle break-ins were up compared to 2012 but still down compared to the 12-year average. And shoplifting incidents continued to trend higher citywide.
All in all, however, the trends appeared promising. Give police credit for an aggressive effort to target high crime areas, work with neighbors in those areas and stay on top of known offenders and gang members.
Rock Hill’s Street Crimes Unit, which focuses on high-crime neighborhoods, added nine officers, a lieutenant and a sergeant. Last year the city also created the Violent Crimes Unit to deal with gangs, serve high-risk warrants and work on any violent crime incidents that occur.
Department officials note that this approach is as much about crime prevention as it is about enforcement. They emphasize the importance of maintaining communication with residents and neighborhood associations in areas with higher crime rates, as well as increasing the police presence there.
A number of neighborhoods hold monthly community meetings where police keep neighbors informed on efforts to prevent younger children from becoming involved in gang activity. Police also make follow-up visits to homes where domestic assaults have been reported to ensure that any problems are being addressed.
The overall result has been a reduction in the number of drug dealers and users, gang members and other potential troublemakers loitering on neighborhood streets. And in most higher crime neighborhoods, the number of service calls to police have decreased, in some areas substantially.
Police also are relying more on statistics to home in on trouble areas where violent crime is higher. That has allowed the department to deploy officers where they are likely to do the most good.
Crime will always be with us. As Rock Hill continues to grow, the potential for higher crime rates also will grow.
Police and city officials will have to be vigilant in making sure that the department has adequate personnel and equipment to cope with new challenges. But as last year’s figures attest, police seem to be doing an excellent job of anticipating problems and acting quickly to handle them.
The department also appears to be placing an appropriate emphasis on community outreach and working with residents to address their concerns.
We’re grateful for all the Rock Hill Police Department does to make this a safer city.