Nearing the halfway point of 2013, Richmond County is experiencing its lowest homicide rate in half a decade.
At the end of May there were six homicides, half of those from one incident. Last year, 14 were recorded in 2012’s first five months. There had been eight through May in 2011, according to statistics on the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Web site.
“It would be wonderful if this number holds,” Lt. Calvin Chew said last week.
But another homicide shook the area Wednesday when Larry Bernard Elam, 31, was shot near Milledge Road, pushing the count to seven this year.
Last year, Richmond County saw 32 homicides. In 2010, there were 35 cases.
Neighboring counties are seeing low numbers this year as well.
Columbia County has had just one homicide so far. Marina Mae Middlebrooks, 29, of Augusta, was charged with murder after her daughter, Sky, died from a stab wound to the throat May 2, the Columbia County New-Times reported.
Aiken County has had four homicides in 2013, Coroner Tim Carlton said. The most recent was the May 28 shooting of Shane Jones, 19, of Aiken. Four men have been arrested and charged with armed robbery and murder in the case.
Chew credits the drop in homicides to a greater community police presence.
“If they see us in the area, then they know that they can trust we are doing a good job,” he said.
The constant police presence acts as a crime deterrent, particularly for the more violent ones, he said.
Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten said that while he would “pat the sheriff on the back for his community involvement programs,” it’s hard to predict when homicides will happen.
“I bet if you look at all the statistics over several years, you would find that the numbers are all over the place,” Tuten said.
He said it’s often not as difficult to determine how a slaying happened.
“It’s very seldom that you see a totally random murder,” he said. “The people who commit these crimes often know their victims.”
Arrests have been made in each of the seven homicides, and at least three of the deaths have been tied to a family member.
February through March marked the longest stretch without a homicide in the past five years. Feedback from the community will help maintain those numbers, Chew said.
“(Citizens) will have their eyes out as well, and it helps us do our job,” he said.
This, in return, builds rapport with the police force, Chew said.
“We’re showing the community our force is a lot better and a lot stronger,” he said. “People are starting to trust that we do a good job.”