By Brian Fraga
New Bedford Standard-Times
NEW BEDFORD — Though street-level crime has increased this year in New Bedford, officials say the joint efforts of law enforcement and community groups over the last several years has helped the city be recognized in a recent Forbes Magazine survey of “America’s Safest Cities.”
Based on 2008 crime statistics reported to the FBI, the new Forbes survey ranks the “metropolitan statistical area” encompassing Providence, Fall River, New Bedford and the adjoining towns as the sixth safest region in the country.
New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang said the ranking was “extremely gratifying.”
“The work that has been done over the last four years has been very comprehensive,” Lang said, describing how law enforcement, community leaders and prosecutors have collaborated to fight crime, especially gun violence.
“We’ve worked very hard but we can’t rest on our laurels,” Lang said. “It’s a challenge every single day to make sure we have safe streets.”
New Bedford Police Chief Ronald E. Teachman credited the efforts of police officers as well as law enforcement and community partners in the region. “I’m sure Chief John Souza of Fall River and Colonel Dean Esserman of Providence share my appreciation of the efforts of their departments,” Teachman said.
Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter said he was pleased but feels work remains to be done. He also credited partnerships between law enforcement and the community.
“I think when hard-working, earnest, dedicated people are working closely together and on the same page, with the only agenda being to improve public safety, I think great things can be accomplished,” Sutter said.
Nelson Hockert-Lotz, a New Bedford businessman who has long been involved in public safety issues, said the region’s Top 10 public safety ranking was “wonderful news.”
“I think it would have been hard to imagine 15 years ago either Providence or New Bedford gaining this distinction at a national level,” Hockert-Lotz said. “The revitalization of the downtown districts in both cities has been something that has clearly made them more hospitable and more welcoming.”
The 40 metropolitan areas in Forbes’ survey were ranked in violent crime based on the following categories from the 2008 FBI Uniform Crime Report: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
The five safest regions in the survey were Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Boston-Cambridge-Quincy and Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue.
Rounding out the Top 10 were San Hose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, Cincinatti-Middletown, Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor and Denver-Aurora.
The Providence-Fall River-New Bedford metropolitan area was also ranked seventh in workplace fatalities, 11th in traffic deaths and 28th in “natural disaster risk,” which is based on data from the green living site SustainLane.com. The site ranks cities based on historical data on hurricanes, major flooding, hail, tornado outbreaks and earthquakes.
The Providence-Fall River-New Bedford region had a listed population of 1.596 million, making it the fourth-smallest. The smaller regions were those around Milwaukee (1.549 million), Nashville, Tenn., (1.550 million) and Jacksonville, Fla. (1.313 million).
Though 2008 crime statistics put Southern New England in Forbes’ Top 10, last year’s statistics still indicated that violent crime had increased from the year before.
In Providence, violent crime in 2008 shot up by 19 percent, due to increases in cell phone robberies and gang violence, police said.
Gun violence in New Bedford increased in 2008. There were 63 reports of shots fired and 20 shooting victims. In 2007, there were 44 incidents of shots fired and 13 victims.
In 2009, nine people have been killed in New Bedford, a sharp increase from 2008 (three homicides) and 2007 (two). Reports of shots fired have also been increasing, with at least five incidents during the last week.
New Bedford police spokesman Lt. Jeffrey P. Silva said improving public safety requires a comprehensive approach that should include legislation to allow prosecutors to request pretrial detention hearings against individuals charged with gun felonies.
“The DA’s use of dangerousness hearings to hold people committing firearms charges in jail was a powerful tool that certainly contributed to county-wide crime reduction and is a tool we hope the people through their legislators put back in our tool box as soon as possible,” Silva said.
November 11, 2009
Source URL: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091111/NEWS/911110344
By Brian Fraga