The number of crimes in Statesboro,
and especially of violent crimes involving guns, was down significantly during
the first eight months of 2018, compared to the same months in 2017.
Chief of Police Mike Broadhead reported this to the mayor and City Council members in an email before the Oct. 2 council meeting. Subject line: “Some good news!”
“We all get inundated with bad news, particularly as it revolves around crime, so I thought I would pass along some good news,” Broadhead wrote.
“I don't typically like to talk about crime stats in short periods of time, as our overall numbers are so low that a few crimes here and there can cause a spike or drop without any real effect,” he added. “I like to look at crime statistics as 'trends’ over longer periods of time to get a more accurate picture of what's happening.”
In remarks to the council, he said 10 years is more the sort of trend he likes to see.
“But I do think that it was important to let you all know that we’ve seen some pretty significant reductions, on a percentage basis, of gun-related crime over the last nine months,” Broadhead said.
In Statesboro, the number of robberies with guns was down 42.11 percent for January through August 2018, compared to the first eight months of 2017. The raw numbers for those months were 19 gun-involved robberies last year and 11 this year. Meanwhile, the number of robberies of all types dropped 33.3 percent, from 33 robberies in the first eight months of last year to 22 robberies January through August this year.
The number of aggravated assaults with a firearm was down from 13 in the first eight months of 2017 to six in those months this year, a 53.85 percent drop. However, the overall number of aggravated assaults, including all involving serious injuries or any type of weapon, was up 31 percent, from 29 a year ago to 38. In particular, the number of aggravated assaults involving a knife tripled, from four to 12.
“We’ve made a concerted effort to address gun crimes specifically, and I hope that there’s some payback in that, that we’re seeing the reductions for a reason and not just through the luck of statistics,” Broadhead told the mayor and council.
Attack on gun crimes
In an interview Monday, Broadhead again emphasized that a rash of actions by even one criminal could cause a big surge in Statesboro’s robbery or assault rates because the raw numbers are so small. He also said, as he often does, that police are very limited in their ability to prevent crime because people make their own decisions, including some very bad decisions.
But after those cautions, he noted three things the Statesboro Police Department is doing now that he hopes are having a real effect in reducing gun crimes.
“One is, our detectives are doing a fantastic job of following up on these kinds of crimes, and I think that they’re arresting offenders who are involved in gun-related crimes at a really remarkable rate, and that is keeping everybody else safe, because we know that about 5 percent of the population creates about 95 percent of the problems,” Broadhead said.
“The second thing we’ve done is we’ve really emphasized, department-wide, that one of our goals is to get illegal and stolen guns off the streets, to get those out of the hands of suspects,” he said.
Last week in executing a search warrant in a drug case, SPD officers found and seized three illegal firearms, including one that had been previously reported stolen, he noted as an example.
Broadhead added that this ongoing effort applies to illegal guns only, not those that are legally possessed.
His third point, closely related to his first, reflects a change in attitude toward certain gun crimes. Broadhead, hired by City Council after a national search, has been chief of police here since April 2017.
Using the hypothetical example of a man who gets shot and reports to the hospital with “a peripheral wound,” he observed that there had been a “long-standing tradition” in which police here let some victims of gun violence decline to press charges.
“Officers and detectives historically would let them sign a form that said they didn’t want to prosecute, and we would just close the case and move on,” Broadhead told the Statesboro Herald. “And so I really emphasized to everybody that anybody who’s willing to fire a gun in public at another human being, we need to put all of our resources into trying to find out who did that.
“Even if the victim doesn’t want to prosecute, we still have a crime that we need to pursue,” he said.
Overall, for the first eight months of 2018, the number of violent crimes in Statesboro was down 1.41 percent from the corresponding period in 2017, Broadhead reported to the council.
Property crimes, including burglaries and other thefts not involving violence, were down 9.41 percent. He used the FBI’s definitions of these categories. Indeed, law enforcement agencies report the information from their jurisdictions to the FBI, so the SPD is the ultimate source of the Statesboro numbers in the national report.
Broadhead’s numbers last week did not include homicides, except as part of the overall violent crime statistic. With three in the first seven months of 2018, Statesboro’s homicide rate is already where it was for all of 2017. The FBI’s 2017 Uniform Crime Reporting numbers, just released Sept. 24, show three deaths in the “murder and non-negligent manslaughter” category in Statesboro.
However, the most recent homicide reported in the city limits occurred June 1. More than four months have passed without another killing, so 2018’s total will not necessarily top 2017’s.
One of this year’s slayings was ruled a murder-suicide, and arrests were made in the other two.
Statesboro’s police chief did not make comparisons to any other cities. However, the FBI’s data make such comparisons possible. With three homicides among an estimated population of 31,937, Statesboro had the equivalent of 9.39 homicides per 100,000 people in 2017.
Meanwhile, 35 murders were reported that year in the Savannah-Chatham metro area. So with a population of 242,941, Savannah-Chatham had a homicide rate of 14.4 per 100,000 people.
In the FBI report, Georgia’s rate was 6.7 homicides per 100,000 people, and the nationwide rate was 5.4 per 100,000 people.
In discussion with council members, Broadhead observed that most violent crimes, here and across the nation, are committed by people with whom the victims have a relationship. That includes not just domestic and romantic relationships, but also relationships between gang members and drug buyers and sellers.
Over the past 18 months, he could think of only two violent crimes in Statesboro in which people were victimized by strangers, he said.
“So I don’t want to make it small for the people involved in those instances, but generally speaking, I think you can walk from one side of town to the other without any fear of being mugged at most any time of the day,” Broadhead said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.