Crime trended down in 2022 as the Springfield Police Department pursued a data-driven program focused on deterrence. Chief Paul Williams reported to City Council Jan. 9 on the results of his department’s efforts, comparing the period of January to November 2022 with the same period in 2021.
In that 11-month period, based on preliminary data, total crimes that were reported decreased 17%, from 22,301 to 18,442. Crimes against persons were down 6%, from 5,716 to 5,393; crimes against property, down 22%, from 14,079 to 11,025; and crimes against society, down 19%, from 2,506 to 2,024.
Calls for service also were down and did not surpass 100,000, Williams said. There were 98,495 calls in all of 2022, compared with 109,826 in 2021 and 108,620 in 2020. That’s a 10% decrease in 2022.
Through social media and public engagement, officials say the department got the word out about specific areas of crime in each of the four quarters of 2022, focusing on theft of vehicles in the first quarter, burglaries in in the second quarter, theft from vehicles in the third quarter and robberies in the fourth quarter.
PSAs were viewed by thousands of city residents, with the one on theft of vehicles garnering a total of 35,900 views on all platforms.
In three of the four quarters, the type of crime targeted went down, but in the last one, robberies, Williams said SPD recorded a 13% overall increase. This includes commercial robbery, with 15 incidents in 2022 versus eight in 2021.
In contrast, theft of vehicles was reduced 30%, from 355 to 248 incidents year over year. Burglaries were reduced 19%, with residential burglaries falling from 190 to 164, a 14% reduction, and commercial burglaries falling from 101 to 73, a 28% reduction. Theft from vehicles was reduced 23.5%, from 1,050 to 804 incidents year over year.
“Those quarters where we focused on something, almost without a doubt that crime decreased due to increased public awareness, education and officer involvement and engagement in crime prevention,” Williams said.
An unfortunate outcome occurred when attention shifted to another area of crime, he noted.
“When we focused on something else, unfortunately, crime rebounded in the succeeding quarter, so that gives us something to improve on,” he said.
This year, Williams said the department will continue its focus on robberies.
“That was the one negative note to end the year on, that that category had increased even though we had focused patrol, resources and public awareness on those types of crime,” he said.
The public information aspect of the deterrence program is coupled with data provided by risk terrain modeling software. For the robbery category, the data indicated to officers the areas of the city where crime was most likely to occur, as well as the type of businesses that were most vulnerable and the days of the week when crime was most common.
Potential for robberies was most likely in restaurants or smoke/vape shops or CBD stores, and also in businesses surrounding those types of establishments, Williams said, and Saturdays and Mondays are the days with the most crime.
The modeling program also showed locations that were more vulnerable for robberies, with some areas of the map highlighted in red.
“We rolled that out to patrol officers – said when you’re patrolling in your area, when you have businesses that match that description or when your beat encompasses one of those red dots on the map, we want you to concentrate patrol activities there when you’re not responding to calls,” Williams said.
Though robberies rose during their fourth-quarter target period, Williams didn’t see the results as entirely negative.
“We did not have any robberies of restaurants or vape shops during that time period, but we had an increase in commercial robberies of convenience stores, gas stations and a couple of bank robberies,” he said.
The information was good, Williams said, adding it was likely officers’ vigilance prevented robberies in the areas they targeted.
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