Despite an extraordinary hike in homicides, the year 2010 was as good as it gets when it comes to a significantly dropping overall crime rate, it was revealed with statistics released by the Chelsea Police Department.
According to crime statistics compiled by police departments in Massachusetts and filed with the FBI, Chelsea experienced the 5th largest overall drop in crime. Taunton had the greatest reduction in overall crime with a 19% drop, well above the 4% average increase the 34 largest communities in Massachusetts in 2010 experienced.
Violent crime was down 7% and property crime down 11% locally in 2010,
Last year’s 10 homicides rattled the city, causing deep concern that crime was getting out of hand. City officials pointed to the fact that the homicides were not an exact reflection of what is going on here nor did the number of homicides relate directly to the relative safety quotient that exists in this city.
Increases in manpower, implementation of new policing strategies, the continued work of community based organizations and the near-constant focus of City government appear to have combined to drive crime down.
“Yes, 2010 was a strange year,” commented Police Chief Brian Kyes. “No year is a good year when there is a single homicide, let alone 10. But the overall results for 2010 speak for themselves. In fact, they’re a confirmation that our efforts in the Police Department, the leadership of our elected and appointed officials, the dedication of our community partners and the engagement by individual residents are successfully combining to drive down crime and enhance our overall policing efforts.”
“There’s not a day that goes by that we aren’t talking with each other about what’s happening out on the streets; conferring on new ways of performing prevention, intervention and enforcement activities, and aggressively seeking more resources to beef-up our already noteworthy efforts,” informed City Manager Jay Ash. “While we’re pleased to see all of this paying off, we’ve got much more to do and greater resolve to do it.”
Both Kyes and Ash credit the men and women of the police force for the reduction in crime, as well as those out in the community supporting them.
“We’re lucky to have officers dedicated to the enforcement side of the equation and a capable support team working on prevention and intervention. It really is a three-pronged approach that is serving us well,” Kyes said.
“I couldn’t be happier with the efforts of our police department, from Chief Kyes to the newest hire. Equally as important to the success we are seeing is the work of community organizations which continue to lead the region, state and, in some cases, country in prevention and intervention programming,” added Ash.
Chelsea organizations and activities are making a difference in the community, including Roca’s nationally recognized efforts on intervention and peace-making, the Collaborative’s Summer Youth Employment Program, Chelsea Neighborhood Developers’ NeighborCircles and Chelsea ASAP’s Mobilization for Change initiative.
“It is programs like those listed above that help to make a real difference in human understanding and the crime rate,” he sad.
Two additional police officers have been hired for 2011 so far.
Staffing levels are up to their highest ever (98 officers) in the CPD.
“This allows us to increase our drug unit to its highest level ever and really allow us to be better at the reactive work the police does and allow them to also get more proactive,” explained Council President Marilyn Vega-Torres, whom Ash credited with the initiative.
“It is a testament to the priority we’ve made public safety,” added Councillor Leo Robinson. “While others are laying-off police and we have tight budgeting issues of our own, we’re not only maintaining the level of funding for our Police Department, but actually increasing it to add those officers and undertake other policing initiatives.”
Among those initiatives Kyes and Ash have recommended and the Council has funded are the implementation of a shift to overlap two others, thereby increasing manpower substantially from 5:30p to 3:30a; the establishment of a full-time crime analyst position, and continued investment in security cameras and other technology.
“That’s what balancing budgets can do for you,” emphasized Councillor Brian Hatleberg, who heads the Council’s Subcommittee on Finance. “We’ve been careful to manage our resources in such a manner that we can continue to prioritize public safety. That allows us to fund all of those things, and be in a position to take advantage of other opportunities when they arise.”
Among the opportunities Kyes says the City is focusing upon is the chance to hire as many as 5 additional officers through a federal grant program. If successful, the 5 will be fully funded by the federal government for the first three years, with the City needing to pick up the fourth year of funding.
“I’m all for that and spending whatever it takes to give our police the resources they need to fight crime and improve our quality of life,” said Councillor Calvin Brown.
In fact, Kyes reports that, if the City is successful in securing the federal funding, one of the five officers will actually be focused on quality of life issues.
“Major crime is important, but so too is the not-so-major things, from loud music to trucks driving in places they shouldn’t. We do our best to focus on both the big things and the small. If we get these extra officers, that will be easier to do,” suggested Kyes.
Ash credits Congressman Michael Capuano for fighting for extra law enforcement funding, and Chelsea’s state legislative delegation of Representatives Eugene O’Flaherty and Kathi-Anne Reinstein and Senator Sal DiDomenico for securing additional funding for other important programs.
“Even with the state budget being such a challenge, our legislators have been able to champion policing and prevention funding which we use here to augment our own work.
“It’s encouraging to see how everyone is chipping in, from all the youth sports teams, to the scouting programs to business people hiring summer kids. All those efforts are part of all our efforts to make safety both our first goal and our proudest accomplishment.
“There’ll still be some disappointing happenings ahead, but, overall, both crime and community revitalization are going in the right directions, and we’ll being doing more and more to see those trends don’t reverse,” concluded Ash.