Richmond County police are crediting an increased community presence with this year’s 42 percent drop in homicides compared with last year.
“A homicide is never predictable,” said Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Calvin Chew, “but being involved in the community is helping decrease the numbers.”
Chew believes the increased visibility and involvement of community policing has officers diffusing situations that have the potential to escalate into a homicide.
In 2012, the sheriff’s office reported 33 homicides. This year, there have been 19 through the weekend, with the latest taking place early Sunday.
Homicide investigator Sgt. William Leisey said the Criminal Investigation Division has noticed that people have changed their attitudes since the sheriff’s office began focusing on community policing. As a result of increased visibility and more patrols, investigators are seeing fewer parking lot and street shootouts, he said.
Investigators believe community trust also helps witnesses provide information in open cases.
With Sunday’s shooting, only two cases remain unsolved this year, down from four in 2012.
Police have added a new category of justifiable homicides, with one last year and three this year.
Police continue to investigate the death of Yossarian Shon Brooks, 39, who was fatally shot June 11 near his home on Massoit Drive.
“Everything we had on that case, we’ve looked at so far,” Investigator Chris Langford said.
Whereas some years saw more drug-related crimes, investigators said there have been a high number of family-related slayings this year. Eight victims died as a result of a family-related incident.
Five of the homicides occurred in two separate incidents over the summer.
Retired educators Roosevelt and Edna Jones and their son, Russell Jones, were discovered in a field behind Deer Chase Elementary on May 21. Ryan Jones, 27, is accused of killing his parents and younger brother before taking them to the field, where their bodies were burned.
Two months later, police were investigating what could have been another triple homicide. Police believe Cedric Harris, 31, shot ex-wife April Paulk and her sister and brother-in-law, Lee and Brandi Wilson, at a home on Stanton Court on
July 21 before turning the gun on himself. Lee and Brandi Wilson died, while April Paulk was critically injured.
Police say the most complex case of the year was the Feb. 20 death of 17-month old Kaidence Alexander. Police worked for months interviewing witnesses and speaking with forensics experts, doctors and others to determine the age of the injuries and who was responsible.
In December, police were able to obtain enough evidence to charge the child’s uncle, Jerome Hughs, 36.