Rock Hill's most common crimes including some violent and property crimes fell 17.5 percent in 2010 from a year earlier, with police crediting proactive community policing and the use of computers to analyze crime patterns among the reasons for the change.
"We're pleased to see the trend of crime down," said Rock Hill Police Chief John Gregory. "I'm pleased to see that's the continuing trend over the last eight or nine years. It's good."
Violent crime - which includes robbery, burglary and rape - was down nearly 24 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to the city's annual Crime Analysis Report. Homicides were the only violent crime category to see an increase, rising from five cases to six.
The per capita rate for violent crime was 7.6 per 100,000 of population. The per capita rate is used to compare crime statistics with other localities. The nine-year per capita average for Rock Hill was 11 per 100,000.
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These crimes are still more prevalent in the older neighborhoods just south of downtown, according to the report. Triangle had the most reported cases of violent crime with 23 incidents. South Central and Sunset Park neighborhoods each had 22 incidents. Heather Heights Apartments topped the apartment complex list for violent crimes last year with seven reported incidents.
Robberies were at a decade low, down 26 percent compared to the nine-year average and 11 percent from last year.
Property crimes, such as car break-ins and shoplifting thefts, also fell, down more than 16 percent from 2009. These crimes are heavily concentrated along the Interstate 77 corridor, where hotels, retail stores and restaurants are located.
The per capita property crime rate was 38.9, down from 55 per 100,000 over the nine year average.
Despite continued growth in the city's population, the total number of property crimes reported fell below 3,000 for the first time since 2001. Car theft numbers hit the lowest they have been in about a decade, down nearly 35 percent when compared to the average number of thefts over the last nine years.
Shoplifting crimes decreased last year, with about 100 fewer reported incidents.
Police saw an increase in property crimes northwest of downtown as the city's newest Walmart completed its first full year of operation in Newport. Last year, 47 incidents were reported in Newport, up from 22 in 2009 and three in 2008. Newport's Walmart opened in August 2009.
To meet the demands created by growth, the department plans to expand from six to eight patrol zones later this year or next year. The goal is to reduce the time it takes to respond to some calls. The additional zones and recently hired officers should help in the Newport area as it expands, Gregory said.
Technology vs. crime
Last year was the fourth year the department has used Compstat - a real-time, computer program that tracks statistics and allows police to see crime trends as they develop. Police meet twice a month to discuss trends and focus resources on problem areas.
"The only way you can make any type of headway is by using our resources wisely," Gregory said. "We've proved we're headed in the right direction.
"This report would be far different if we didn't analyze it all year. One of the main reasons we've had success is that our information is not stale. It's as it happens."
Real-time data is available to officers in their patrol cars, allowing them to see what has been going on in the area, who is causing problems, where they need to be and during what the times they need to patrol certain areas, said Rock Hill Police Lt. Brad Redfearn.
"We need to be aware of what's going on in the community and be proactive," Gregory said. "It's fluid. We tweak our plans during the year. We look at crime history to know where to patrol."
One crime not on the decline is copper and metal thefts.
Unoccupied rental properties, houses for sale, storm grates and cemetery vases have been targeted for thefts over the last six months.
"We've made some progress on these thefts because we concentrate on them as they develop throughout the year," Gregory said.
Police are working with scrap yards to identify people selling stolen metals.
There are issues that police can't address alone, Gregory said - that's where the community can play an active role.
Keeping an eye on vacant properties and on neighbors' homes while they are away and reporting any suspicious activity to police will help reduce thefts, he said.
The total number of burglaries last year reported to police fell more than 150 incidents - from 660 to 507. That is a 23 percent drop, year-over-year. Of those burglaries, break-ins to homes dropped 20 percent.
Some of the reduction in violent crime comes from police changing how they deal with domestic violence calls, including more follow-up visits to residences where incidents are reported and working with the courts to prosecute repeat offenders, Gregory said.
Identifying and apprehending chronic offenders also helps reduce crime rates, Gregory said.
"When we intervene, identify those people and take them off the street," he said, "it often cools the temperature, so to speak, in the community and sends a picture to other possible offenders."