Fort Mill Times

Violent crime drops in Rock Hill

Violent crime in Rock Hill decreased 27 percent in 2011, marking a steady downward trend in those crimes over a 10-year period, according to new police statistics.

There were 394 reported violent crimes in 2011, compared with 543 in 2010. Violent crimes include rape, homicide, aggravated assault and burglary. On average, there was a 42 percent decrease in violent crimes for the 2001-2011 period.

Although property crimes dropped in 2010, they picked up in 2011 by 13.9 percent. There were 2,785 incidents reported in 2010 compared to 3,173 in 2011.

However, the numbers were down 2.8 percent compared to the 10-year average.

"The numbers were still very, very good," Police Chief John Gregory said.

Gregory said the decrease in violent crimes is because of proactive community policing strategies and the use of the Compstat program, a computer program he said is the "nuts and bolts" of the reductions.

Rock Hill police began using Compstat five years ago to track statistics and show crime trends as they develop in real-time. Police meet twice a month to discuss trends and focus resources on problem areas. Officers can access the data from their patrol cars.

"We're not only looking at numbers," Gregory said. "We're looking at what's going on, who's potentially doing it, what resources we have and what's the best way to approach it.

"We work very hard to not let patterns materialize and grow," he said.

The department has fostered relationships with other agencies, as well as prosecutors, to focus on chronic offenders, particularly violent ones.

Chronic offenders influence other people's behavior, Gregory said. "If you target the leaders, the ones causing the problems, you can cool the temperature in the streets and make the streets safer.

Also a key part in crime reduction was the Weed & Seed Initiative, implemented five years ago and funded through a U.S. Department of Justice grant. Policetargeted the Hagins/Fewell, Sunset Park, South Central, North Crawford Road and Flint Hill neighborhoods. Twenty-seven percent of the violent crime in the city happens those neighborhoods.

City departments increased services and and programs in those neighborhoods, to assist residents. Efforts included CRAVE summer camp, a mentoring program known as BROTHERS; Shift, Change and Believe, a group dedicated to combating gang involvement; and Taking the City Ministry, which offers services including counseling, child care and transportation.

Another police effort was continuing to attend neighborhood meetings, giving crime information to apartment managers and reaching out to residences or businesses that receive three or more calls in reference to certain issues.

In the Hagins/Fewell community, police saw a 50 percent reduction in total crime since 2006.

Even though the grant funding has ended, Gregory said officers will continue their community policing efforts.

"For us now, funding is overtime for officers to be strategically placed in areas and neighborhoods where they can do specific duties that will help curtail and prevent crime," he said.

Violent and property crimes are still more evident in older neighborhoods in the south parts of Rock Hill. South Central and Sunset Park had 24 and 13 incidents each. Heather Heights was at the top of apartment complex list with eight incidents.

One of the factors for the increase in property crime was the copper thefts from vacant or foreclosed houses. Gregory said the police are working with scrap metal dealers to curb this crime.

There was also a rash of automobile break-ins last year, a 20.2 percent increase.

Gregory said one thing that hurt the crime rate were people who targeted vehicles left unlocked in middle-class neighborhoods and heavily traveled shopping areas throughout the city. Some admitted to breaking into 30 to 40 vehicles.

Burglaries jumped slightly from 507 in 2010 to 572 in 2011, but robberies were at a decade-low, hitting below the 100 mark.

The majority of crimes saw a decrease when compared to the 10-year average.

Police have plans to increase patrol zones from six to eight and to watch the Newport Walmart and Riverwalk areas.

Gregory added that they want to get the community involved more than ever, calling it "the most important resource."

"The greatest impact we can have is when the public is engaged with us and understands what the problems are, understand working with us," he said. "We've proven that we can assist and reduce crime. ...We are not working in a vacuum. We have to have everybody all in."

It's all about keeping the lines of communication open, he said.

"We don't have all the resources or all the answers," he said. "But we can use what we have in the best way we can for the best outcomes."