Nationwide trends show that violent crime has declined over the past five years, and Richmond County crime statistics tell a similar story.
There has been a 12.9 percent decrease in violent crimes reported from 2008 to 2012 nationwide, according to the 2012 FBI Uniform Crime Reports. Local law enforcement agencies attribute the drop to a more community-driven approach.
“Take those four to five years and compare it to this year and without a doubt the main tool in crime prevention is community policing,” Richmond County sheriff’s Sgt. Shane McDaniel said. “From what I see myself, the community is getting more involved with the sheriff’s office and the sheriff’s office is getting more involved in the community.”
Community policing, McDaniel said, is when the sheriff’s office and citizens work hand-in-hand to fight crime. Deputies are expected to know the people and businesses on their patrol route and citizens are asked to communicate with the sheriff’s office to help identify problem areas.
The introduction of the department’s traffic division this year has allowed more deputies to patrol the roads, increasing the visibility of the sheriff’s office, McDaniel said.
Greater visibility will make would-be criminals think twice, he added.
“With more deputies on patrol, you’re also looking at a quicker response time,” he said.
However, the traffic division didn’t exist during the surveyed years, and the effects won’t be measurable until the conclusion of 2013.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office took a more hands-on approach to fighting crime between 2008 and 2012, Capt. Steve Morris said.
“We identify what the problem is and develop a strategy to combat that problem,” he said. “We are in no way, shape or form satisfied with the numbers. One is too many.”
The sheriff’s office holds command staff meetings every week to analyze crime statistics and identify problem areas, Morris said. This allows police to get a jump on crime before it starts. High crime areas are met with a greater police presence.
Violent crime, however, is a different beast, Morris said.
“They’re not random acts,” he said. “Most of the time, the people knew each other. We can put an officer on every beat and every street, but we can’t put an officer in every home.”
The FBI estimates that a violent crime happened every 26 seconds in 2012, and the bureau’s Web site also said that aggravated assaults accounted for 62.6 percent of all violent crimes reported to law enforcement agencies.
In 2008, there were 16,465 cases of murder and non-negligent manslaughter nationwide compared to 14,827 in 2012. In the same five-year span, forcible rape and aggravated assault dropped by 12.8 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively.
Robbery saw the biggest five-year drop of all the violent crime categories with 20.1 percent fewer cases reported in 2012 than in 2008.
In Richmond County, robbery and aggravated assault dropped significantly while rape showed little change. Murder statistics, however, follow no real trend.
Robbery cases, which reached a 5-year high in 2009, with 792 reported incidents, dropped to 527 in 2012.
In 2012, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office reported 32 homicides, which is up from 19 cases in 2008. Homicide reached a five-year high in 2010, with 35 cases total.
Reported rape cases have seen a slight decline since 2010 after a high of 103 in both 2008 and 2009.
While violent crime has remained somewhat level in Columbia County, Morris said the sheriff’s office has seen a decrease in overall crime since 1996, when there were 6,866 reported crimes. There were 4,999 crimes reported in 2012.