02/06/11 — Goldsboro overall crime rate down 2 percent

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Goldsboro overall crime rate down 2 percent

By Gary Popp
Published in News on February 6, 2011 1:50 AM

Goldsboro Police Chief Tim Bell is crediting better relationships between the department and the public as the reason behind the 2 percent drop in city crime in 2010.

But, he said, while these numbers are a resource for tracking past criminal behaviors, his department is looking ahead and planning to continue several successful initiatives -- better communication between departments and more interaction with the public -- this year.

As part of their new efforts, officers are working to increase field contacts, meaning they are more frequently approaching people who are walking the streets, especially at night and in the early morning hours.

"Making field contacts is good community police work. We want to stop and introduce ourselves and also find out who people are," Bell said.

Bell said such field contacts can lead to information gathering that can help solve future crimes by having a record of specific people in a general area.

Looking back at 2010, though, the homicide rate in the city has remained relatively stable for the past five years, peaking in 2007 with 10 murders. Bell said that although every homicides is a concern, statistically, Goldsboro is not out of line with other cities its size.

"I don't think we have a high homicide rate for a city of our population," he said.

Another piece of good news was a significant decrease in the number of rapes committed in the city, from nine in 2009 to three last year.

Bell noted that at least half of the rape cases handled by police investigators include a victim who was in a relationship with the person being accused.

One of the largest categories of criminal activity, though, involve robberies and larcenies.

Since 2006, the variation in robberies from year to year has only been 25, with a low in 2009 with 92 and a high in 2008 with 117.

Bell said that it is often the case that one or two individuals will commit a string of robberies, creating a rapid increase in the rate. Bell said that rate can remain high until the suspects are apprehended, at which point it often drops dramatically.

"A majority of the time, a person is doing several robberies at a time," Bell said.

Larcenies accounted for more than half of all offenses recorded by police in 2010. A larceny is defined as the unlawful taking of property without the use of force or fraud, such as shoplifting. There were 1,674 such incidents reported in the city last year.

"Larcenies are misdemeanors," Bell explained. "We work them, but it is not like someone breaking into someone's home."

Bell said many businesses have come to realize the benefits of spending money on security measures to offset losses from shoplifters.

"Local businesses do a good job of apprehending shoplifters," Bell said.

Acts of vandalism caused an estimated $870,146 in damages to property in 2010.

Overall, police received 63,241 calls during the year, a 2 percent increase from 2009.

Bell said while that number may sound like a lot, he is pleased when people call the police department.

"I want the calls of service number to be high. Hopefully, the calls for service goes up another 2 percent next year," Bell said.

Bell said there is a direct relationship between the increase in calls made by citizens to the police department and the decrease in the overall crime rate.

"We encourage people to call if they see something that doesn't look right in their neighborhood," Bell said.

Bell said it is much better for the department to respond to a call that doesn't amount to anything than to have someone not call and a crime occurs or suspects escape.

Geographically, the crime rate is typically low in the official downtown area, Bell said.

Bell said the highest concentration of crime occurs in the geographic center of Goldsboro, which is heavily residential, but that criminal activity is "pretty well spread out" throughout the city.

Bell stressed the importance of the public to exercise common sense to protect itself from burglaries and other crimes.

"It is a good idea if you have an alarm system in your home. The systems help out tremendously," Bell said.

A burglary occurs when a person unlawfully enters a structure to commit a theft. The use of force is not required to classify a crime as a burglary.

Bell said there are multiple steps people can take to protect their homes from theft when leaving for extended periods of time.

"Have a friend of neighbor remove your newspaper so criminals don't know you are away," Bell said.

Bell also suggests using automated lights in and around your home that make it appear that there is activity in your home.

Bell said people can also contact the police department who will put a Keep Watch on your residence.

The Keep Watch program involves the police department keeping an eye on a residences while the residents are away.

Bell advises people to not subject themselves to a crime of opportunity. More than half of the vehicles that have goods stolen from within are unsecured.

"If you are going to leave your pocketbook, GPS system or computer in your vehicle, keep them in your trunk, not out in the open."

Bell said criminals usually look inside vehicles before committing a theft.

Bell also said the police department did a god job of limiting criminal activity during the recent holiday season. Comparing the month of December 2009 and the month of December 2010, the crime rate dropped 27 percent -- break-ins were down 29 percent and larceny was down 39 percent

"We worked really hard during that month," Bell said.

As a whole, Bell is satisfied with the work at the department in 2010.

"Anytime that you can see a reduction in crime -- you are not disappointed," Bell said.

But, he added, the police department can't do it alone.

"We can only do our job if the community is involved," Bell said.