The closing of two downtown clubs contributed greatly to a significant drop in crime last year, police said.
Platinum Lounge, which was located near the intersection of South Walnut and Proctor streets, was shut down after a series of police incidents including the still-unsolved fatal shooting of a female patron.
Primetime Lounge, which was located on Northside Drive West near Miller Street Extension, was closed after false information was discovered regarding the club’s alcohol license. The discovery followed the shooting of two men during business hours. One died.
The clubs’ closings were definitely a “contributing factor” to the notable drop in crime calls last year, said Statesboro Police Cpl. Justin Samples.
“Both clubs were a large draw on police resources,” he said. “Since the clubs’ closing the police department has realized a 15 percent decrease in call volume.”
According to a news release issued last week, the Statesboro Police Department’s 2014 crime statistics are finalized and crimes such as theft, simple assault, burglary, aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft, robbery (armed and forcible), rape and homicide are at their lowest point in seven years.
“In 2014, all robberies were down by 35 percent from the previous year, burglaries decreased by 33 percent, sexual assaults — including rape — were down 18 percent, motor vehicle theft down 49 percent, and all theft down cumulatively by 17 percent,” he said.
While the club closings had a significant impact on crime reduction, Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner also attributes the decrease to the “focused efforts” by police.
“The Statesboro Police Department uses the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting data to measure the progress of our crime prevention and program efforts,” he said. “In looking at these statistics, I hope that our community is very proud of the productive efforts of the Statesboro Police Department and its law enforcement partners.”
Several things contribute to the decrease, such as community policing, problem-oriented policing, and intelligence-led policing, he said.
“Additional police officers on the streets, newly developed partnerships, including the Statesboro-Bulloch County Crime Suppression Team, organizational improvements, and increased community programs and awareness have made a tremendous difference that is reflected in these statistics,” he said.
The Statesboro Police Department joined forces with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office in January 2014, merging two crime suppression units to form the multi-jurisdictional Statesboro-Bulloch Crime Suppression Team. Georgia Southern University Police joined this partnership in July.
“The Crime Suppression Team has been extremely successful in the apprehension of violent felons, burglary, and illicit drug violators,” Turner said.
Community members also help in the ongoing nettle against crime.
“Through several community outreach initiatives such as the Citizens Police Academy, the Statesboro Police Department has gained ‘buy-in’ from the community,” Turner said. “The program has been so successful that a Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association has been created to assist the department with volunteer and community support.”
Other initiatives include a PACT (Police and Citizens Together) program to build on the increased communication between the department and city neighborhoods, as well as the development of a student liaison position with Georgia Southern University creating a vital communication link between the police department and university, he said.
Statesboro’s police department received recent praise from Louis M. Dekmar, past president of Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and current vice president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
“The community partnerships created by the Statesboro Police Department are producing an impressive and sustained reduction in crime and building the necessary trust to ensure the public’s safety,” he said.
Turner also praised Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore for supporting the department.
“Since the election of Mayor Moore, we have had a commitment of support that is unprecedented,” he said. “I believe she is certainly making good on her promise to help rid the city of crime by supporting all our efforts.”
The reduction in crime might be surprising to many in light of the significant growth experienced by the city of Statesboro, Bulloch County, Georgia Southern, Ogeechee Technical College and East Georgia State College over the last decade.
There are also factors that “aren’t as obvious” that played a tremendous role in the crime reduction, he said.
“Achieving this significant reduction would not have been possible without improving technology within the department, additional equipment, and an increase in police training,” Turner said. “Our officers received over 9,623 hours of training this past year, which averages out to over 137 hours per officer. That is well above the state minimum requirements of 20 hours per year.”
The number of crime calls police responded to dropped from 2,299 in 2009 to 2,133 in 2010, Samples said.
In 2011, Statesboro police officers responded to 2,068 crime calls, and the number rose slightly in 2012 to 2,134. The numbers dropped a little in 2013 to
2,120 calls, but the crime calls in 2014 showed the most significant reduction overall, to 1,896 calls, according to statistics Samples provided.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.