By Aaron Nicodemus
Standard-Times Staff Writer
NEW BEDFORD — Violent crime in the Whaling City is down in every category for the first five months of the year compared to last year, and property crime is down in every category except larceny, according to city statistics.
Rape reports are down 36 percent from January to May 2007 compared to the same period a year ago, while robbery dropped 15 percent and assault by 12 percent. There were two murders in the city by the end of May 2006; the city has not had a homicide this year.
Gun violence and the number of guns seized were both down as well. In the first five months of 2006, there were 37 reports of shots fired, 14 shooting victims and two murders. This year, there have been 14 reports of shots fired, one victim and no murders. The numbers of guns seized has dropped as well, from 32 last year to 12 this year.
In property crimes, auto theft is down 26 percent, arson 20 percent and burglary 15 percent. Only larceny — the theft of goods without the victim being present — went up, by 8 percent.
“I wish I could say conclusively what factors are responsible, because I’d double or triple my resources in those areas,” said Police Chief Ronald A. Teachman.
Nationally, violent crime was up 1.3 percent last year, according to the FBI. But the crime uptick was unevenly distributed, as murders in big cities rose sharply while murders in small towns and mid-size cities (like New Bedford) declined by almost 12 percent. The growing homicide numbers contributed to an overall 1.3 percent hike in violent crime nationwide in 2006. A year earlier, violent crime rose by 2.3 percent, the first increase since 2001. Violent crime was up in every region of the country except New England, the FBI said.
Chief Teachman noted there are several changes in place this year in the city’s fight against crime that may be helping to make the streets safer. Coordination between the city police, as well as state, federal and county officials has never been better, he said, noting particularly the recent sweep of 37 Latin Kings gang members.
The Hope Collaborative and the state-funded, anti-gang grant have provided outreach to the city’s youth, he said. And the Police Department has been decentralized to the point where police can more quickly respond to crime hot spots, then keep the police presence in those areas.
“We’ve been more strategic in the allocation of our resources,” Chief Teachman said. “We’re working on those impact players and removing them from the street.”
Asked if he is concerned that gun seizures are down, Chief Teachman said he is encouraged because it says to him there are fewer guns on the street.
“If we’d had more shootings this year than last year, and gun seizures were down, I’d say there is a problem,” he said. “But I think that guns are not as readily available on the streets as they were last year, and I think people are not as bold about putting them in their waistband and using them to threaten people. It’s a good sign.”
Mayor Scott W. Lang said he hopes the crime statistics signal the beginning of a trend.
“I think the police are fully engaged in the different neighborhoods; they’re getting to know very clearly where the problem spots are,” he said. “We’re beginning to establish a trend that people want safe streets and are willing to work for it.”
He said the city is doing “everything it can” to provide more after-school activities and safe places for city youths to go.
“Anyone who has a problem we can help with, we’ve got our hand out,” he said. “We’re telling our youth that the day that someone is going to turn a shoulder on you are over.”
Violent crime, particularly murder, has historically risen in the summer months.
Chief Teachman said the Police Department has held back from spending some grant money in preparation for the summer.
“We’re preparing for it, we’re bracing for it, we’re going to be picking up our efforts through the summer months,” he said.
Contact Aaron Nicodemus at email@example.com
Publication date: June 05, 2007
By Aaron Nicodemus