Decreasing crime rate applauded

Feb. 01, 2013 @ 06:05 PM

The crime rate in Henderson edged down again for 2012 according to annual uniform crime incident reporting statistics.

At a retreat gathering of city leaders last week, Henderson Police Chief Keith Sidwell reported receiving 1,895 “index” offenses for the calendar year 2012, down 126 from 2,021 reported for 2011.

Sidwell said that focused policing impacted larcenies in particular.

“We have had a 33.8 percent reduction in larcenies,” Sidwell said.

The overall crime reduction represented a 6.25 percent drop.

The Henderson City Council, present for their annual strategy retreat, received the report as good news on trends, but they expressed the concerns of constituents they represent about crimes that continue to burden and endanger neighborhoods.

“We did see a reduction in crime now for three straight years,” Ward 2 Councilman Michael Inscoe said.

“I think the police are doing an excellent job with what they have,” Ward 2 Councilman Michael Rainey said. “I am hearing about the same complaints, though, asking about what we can do about crime. Anything we can do to reduce it, I’m for it.”

A sticking point in the uniform reporting for Henderson continues to be rising violent crimes. A small rise in numbers mean sweeping percentage rate increases, often because of a single individual criminal or a crime spree by a few.

Sidwell reported that there was a spike in robberies from April through June, then the capture of Robert E. Williams put an end to that spree.

“While we did see a spike in violent crimes,” Sidwell said, “robberies ended up less than in 2011 by 3.8 percent.”

Ward 3 Councilwoman Brenda Peace-Jenkins said that her Flint Hill area of the city seems to be bearing the brunt of crime increases.

“I think I’m hearing in my area that there seems to be an increase in crime,” Peace-Jenkins said. “It seems like everything is escalating. You are hearing it or hearing about more gunshots fired and about more break-ins.”

She said she deals with complaints that there may be an unequal effort by police to respond to crimes when reported, but she also believes there is a good-faith effort by the police to do all they can.

“I think they are doing all they can, while at the same time there is room for improvement,” Peace-Jenkins said. “This is also an issue that needs our prayer. Crime has become more rampant, and it may be more than the police can handle.”

Rainey said he does not pretend to have the answer to the crime problem, but one thing that is an obvious need is more police officers on duty, added to more community activism by residents taking stock in their neighborhoods and looking out for each other.

“We have to do it, we have to get everybody involved,” Rainey said. “We also need more police.”

Rainey said he understood the police department is fully staffed. According to Sidwell’s submitted report, four positions came open in 2012 and the department swore-in seven new officers: Ben Yarborough, Christopher Norris, Brandon Mitchell, Aston Mitchell, Mike Wilder, Jonathan Thomas and Timothy Kelley.

Rainey called the job of police tough, one he didn’t think he could do.

There was an increase in reported homicides in the city, seven in 2012 compared to five for 2011. Sidwell said that while policing efforts can focus on keeping guns from violent offenders, convicted felons who are not allowed to have guns, a murder is most often beyond the reach of law enforcement until after it happens.

“When a human being decides to take another’s life, that is going to happen,” Sidwell said, adding that the homicides in Henderson normally involve close-relationship domestic situations or long-standing disputes that are difficult to prevent.

The issue has resulted in strategizing by the Criminal Investigations and Special Operations divisions to track illegal weapons possession and criminal weapons use, seeking more aggressive state prosecution of those offenders, or when possible, tapping in to the resource of the federal Safe Neighborhoods program, trying cases in federal court.

“We have seen an overall reduction in homegrown gang activity in part because we have been able to put some of these gang leaders in prison through the federal program,” Sidwell said.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.