01/16/05 — Crime rate down in Goldsboro

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Crime rate down in Goldsboro

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on January 16, 2005 2:09 AM

Goldsboro police are taking a bite out of crime.

Chief Tim Bell says the rate of major crimes was down by 2 percent in 2004 from 2003.

But what makes Bell proud is that the drop was the fifth in the last six years. Only in 2000 did the crime rate go up since 1999.

The rate measures the most serious crimes -- murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, arson and larceny.

"I feel like we're getting better at what we're doing," the chief said Friday.

More cases are being turned into the court system, Bell said. With the crime rate down, "common sense will tell you we're clearing more cases," he said.

At the same time, police answered about 1,000 more calls for service, a total of about 49,000 in 2004, Bell said.

The chief said the crime rate in 1999 was down 11 percent from 1998, and the rate in 2000 went up 9 percent from 1999. Then the rate dropped 6 percent in 2001, 5 percent in 2002 and 8 percent in 2003.

Bell attributes the steady decline to the 10-year-old structured sentencing law and to the addition of more officers on the streets.

The chief explains that the structured sentencing law eliminates parole and targets drug traffickers, habitual criminals and violent offenders. These people are being sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Bell said law-enforcement officers also have new technology and better training to do their jobs.

"We should be trying to improve what we're doing," he said. "I think it's starting to pay off."

About a year ago, one patrol shift was eliminated. Instead of five shifts of patrol officers working eight hours at a time, now there are four shifts of officers who work 12 hours. The change has increased the number of officers from about 13 to 17 on the streets per shift.

With the increased number of officers working at one time, Bell said, "We can concentrate on problem areas" around town.

Another spinoff from the change in shifts has been the success in hiring new officers to fill vacancies. Bell said the department was at full strength.

The officers "have done an outstanding job, and it shows," Bell added.