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Some crime is decreasing in city

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD On Friday, Acting Police Commissioner William Fitchett told City Councilors Kateri Walsh and Bud Williams there will be a growing police presence on the city's streets.

Fitchett also said at a meeting of the Public Health and Safety Subcommittee that new statistics reveal many categories of crime are down in the city.

Fitchett said the Finance Control Board has authorized over-time to increase both walking and motorized patrols as and the hiring of 11 civilian dispatchers and call takers who are now being trained. The Board also has allowed Fitchett to hire police cadets for various administrative and support positions.

In reporting year-to-date statistics, Fitchett said that burglary is down seven percent compared to last year; car theft is down 30 percent; larceny has decreased seven percent; and felony assault has dropped three percent.

These statistics were compiled with the use of a new reporting system that accurately tracks the occurrence of crime in the city, Fitchett explained. A State Police statistician is training the Springfield department on the new system's use.

Although the decreases in some crime categories is heartening, Fitchett noted that the 18 murders in the city has driven that statistic up 13 percent and that rape has remained the same.

Sgt. John Delaney, who also attended the meeting, added that arrests have been made for recent homicides.

There has been the increase in armed robbery of businesses, which Fitchett described as "crimes of opportunity" that occur when police are not present.

He said that video surveillance systems are a useful tool in protecting businesses, but he noted that many businesses have systems that are not effective in capturing images that are useful in the identification of suspects.

Fitchett said the department will "pull out the stops" to deter the recent rash of robberies at convenience stores and other businesses. For security sake, he said he could not discuss the department's strategies, but explained that steps have been taken to address the issue.

Delaney said that the city is safe and the department makes hundreds of arrests a week. He expressed confidence that the "thugs" responsible for the robberies will be apprehended.

He did allude to some of the root causes of some crimes situations the police can not address.

"The police can't fight poverty," Delaney said. "The police can't fight youth who have nothing to do."

The Reverend W. C. Watson, Jr., of the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, who also attended the meeting, said his concern is the "big picture" of problems that is beyond the control of the police.

Fitchett said that increasing motor vehicle stops is one way of discovering situations before they are problems, but that increased citations are a public relations problem with the public.

"There's no perfect tool out there," he said. "[The department] is trying to stay on the cutting edge [of law enforcement] and the cutting edge is always changing."