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Salisbury Police: Overall violent crimes dropped by 19 percent from 2016 to 2017

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — In 2017, in the city, 10 people lost their lives and there were 200 incidents of violence in addition to 494 shots fired calls reported. However, overall violent crimes have dropped by 19 percent, a decrease from 2016, Salisbury Police officials say.

A closer look at the crime numbers show a decline in violent and property crimes, which reflect the four focus areas the department took on around August 2016. Those four focus areas — assault with a dangerous weapon (gun), shots fired calls/reports taken generally, residential burglary, thefts and motor vehicle burglaries.

“We focus on determining time and locations of those type of occurrences and how we can direct our patrols toward preventing them from occurring,” Police Chief Jerry Stokes said.

He said there are four lieutenants who are focused on those areas individually, while the fifth focuses on recruiting and hiring, which has been another priority for the Police Department, Stokes said.

Stokes said the department began weekly crime tracking reports to staff in June 2017 as one of Deputy Chief Shon Barnes’ first initiatives. Soon after, the Police Department began their Compstat style of accountability in their Stratified Policing model at monthly command staff meetings in August 2016 and assigned the four focus areas then.

CompStat, or COMPSTAT, is short for COMPARE STATistics, includes four generally recognized components — timely and accurate information or intelligence, rapid deployment of resources, effective tactics, and relentless follow-up.

The numbers

Overall violent crimes, which include homicides, rapes, and aggravated assaults, as well as robberies and shootings, have decreased by 19 percent. In 2016, there were 247 violent crimes and in 2017, the Police Department recorded 200 violent crimes.

Property crimes, which include residential and business burglaries, auto theft, larceny and larceny from a motor vehicle, overall dropped by 5 percent from 2016 to 2017. There were 1,690 property crimes reported in 2016 and in 2017 there were 1,605.

In 2016, there were 10 homicides in the city, six of them still unsolved. While there were 10 people killed in 2017, one incident was a double murder that occurred in July 2017. All of the murders that occurred in this previous year have been solved. The East Spencer Police and Rowan County Sheriff’s Office also had one homicide each, both of which have been solved.

The department reported 12 rapes in 2016 and three in 2017 while commercial robberies increased from 19 in 2016 to 22 in 2017, a 15.8 percent increase. Individual robberies declined from 56 in 2016 and 55 the year after.

In 2016, there were 47 assault with a deadly weapon incidents and in 2017 the department statistics show 48 assaults occurred.

Residential burglaries took a 43 percent reduction from 334 in 2016 to 191 in 2017 while commercial burglaries also dipped. There were 79 business break-ins in 2016 and 62 in 2017 for a 22 percent decrease.

Vehicle thefts increased in 2017 with 94 and 81 the year before, which is a 16 percent rise. In addition to the rise in vehicle thefts, reports show larcenies increased by 7 percent from 936 in 2016 to 1,002 in 2017.

Larceny from motor vehicles reduced from 260 to 256 over 2016 to 2017, which is a decrease of nearly 2 percent.

Police officials have said a number of the vehicle break-ins occurred at Salisbury hotels and motels so often that officers have beefed up patrols at those establishments. In fact, a week ago, police charged four Charlotte residents with breaking into a vehicle at the Marriott hotel and who later took police on a 20-mile vehicle chase into Cabarrus County.

The future

Chief Stokes said his department expects to promote a lieutenant into a position that will be vacant in January and planning to add armed robberies and commercial establishments as the fifth area of focus in this new year. He added this change has not been finalized and may not be added at the first of the year, but later in 2018.

While the Police Department has solved all of its homicides in 2017, there remains six unsolved murders out of 10 from 2016 and four murders in 2015 with three unsolved. Also in 2015, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office had two murders, both of which were solved and the East Spencer Police has one unsolved murder.

Chief Jerry Stokes said those homicides in 2015 and 2016 are still a priority for his department.

“We are focused on devoting resources to them as able,” he said.

Stokes added that the Police Department’s partnership with the Office of Justice Programs DiagnosticCon Center is one way he hopes to address older unsolved homicides. The Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center, which falls under the U.S. Department of Justice, will work with the Police Department and Salisbury residents to come up with ways to work together to address key issues, including the opioid crisis, violent crime, community engagement, and the low clearance rate of homicides and gun crimes.

The center will monitor the Police Department and provide feedback on the goals it sets and accomplishes throughout the time it is working with the Police Department. The center will also look at the data and make sure that programs the Police Department has implemented or intends to implement are effective.

It is his hope that through the partnership, which for the most part, is free, the department can review those cases and freshen up the investigations.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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