The number of reports of aggravated assault, rape, burglary and narcotics dropped for the second year in a row in Richmond County.
In 2010, aggravated assaults were at a 10-year high. The next year the number reported fell to the lowest mark the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office had seen in five years. The drop continued this year.
Police said it’s always a good sign to see crime numbers fall, but finding the reasons for their decline is often not easy. The economy, large arrests, new procedures and projects, and weather all have the potential to drive numbers down, authorities say.
Burglaries, however, are one of the categories where investigators pinpoint a reason for the drop: the Burglary Task Force and undercover operations.
Since the task force started in February 2011, the number of reported burglaries has decreased, said Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Jimmy Young.
“Having the suppression team has definitely helped because it gives us folks that can work on problem areas,” Young said.
Large undercover operations have also helped take criminals off the streets, authorities say.
In March 2011, Operation Fox Hunt ended with more than 70 people behind bars. During the 19-month investigation, undercover officers worked out of an urban clothing store at Deans Bridge and Lumpkin roads where they purchased drugs and guns.
In February, another operation, Smoke Screen, ended and eventually led to more than 100 arrests. During the seven-month investigation, undercover officers took over a pawnshop on Peach Orchard Road and bought stolen guns, electronics, lawn equipment and ATVs.
In 2010, investigators saw an average of 322 burglaries a month. So far in 2012, that has dropped to 264 a month, according to crime statistics from the sheriff’s office.
Sgt. Allan Rollins said the drop in narcotics incidents over the past two years does not tell the whole story.
Over the past several years, Rollins said, the narcotics division has focused on larger dealers, which affects the number of incidents.
“It does hurt our overall statistics, but when we get the bigger dealers it does the community more benefit,” he said. “You can’t go by raw numbers.”
Investigations that target large dealers can take months and many officers, which takes more officers off the streets.
“The whole time we do not give up on citizen complaints or the drug tip hotline,” Rollins said. “We still work it but we can’t put the kind of dedication to it.”
In July 2011, an investigation ended with the arrest of Dorsett Williams, who authorities say was a big-time dealer on Camille Street. Investigators had been watching him for nearly three months. Investigators seized kilos of cocaine, pounds of marijuana, cars, guns and more than $100,000.
The drug deals going on in the neighborhood were also prompting other crimes, such as aggravated assaults and robberies, authorities said. After the arrest, the area instantly saw a difference.
“The quality of the case was so good that it really cleaned up the neighborhood more than us coming in and doing a ‘dine and dash’ by grabbing them and running,” Rollins said. “It had a huge impact on the drugs in that neighborhood more than if we had done 30 cases.”
Most categories have stayed consistent since 2010, with the exception of homicides and robberies, which both fell in 2011 but saw increases this year.