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Violent crime down for 2nd year

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Providence reports drop in violent crimes

"This city is beginning to see a turnaround," says police Chief Dean M. Esserman.

BY AMANDA MILKOVITS Journal Staff Writer | January 11, 2005

PROVIDENCE -- Fewer people were murdered and fewer were victims of crime in the city last year, for the second year in a row.

Police Chief Dean M. Esserman and Mayor David N. Cicilline yesterday released crime statistics for 2004 that showed all violent crimes -- including murder -- dropped a total of nearly 20 percent from 2003.

"The work of the men and women of this Police Department has made a difference," Esserman said. "This city is beginning to see a turnaround."

The homicide rate fell from 20 in 2003 to 17 last year. Across the board, violent and nonviolent crimes dropped, from rapes to shootings to burglaries, break-ins, and drugs.

Cicilline credited the community policing program for helping drive down the crime rate. Under Esserman, in the summer of 2003, the city was divided into nine police districts, with assigned officers and lieutenants dedicated to solving crimes in their neighborhoods.

They use a computer-mapping system to help them analyze where and when crimes are occurring. They work with the neighborhood groups, clergy, businesses and residents to help them respond to problems. They cooperate with the U.S. Attorney's office and attorney general's office to prosecute criminals.

The department still has a way to go, Esserman said later. There are new strategies in mind. Last year, the police focused on getting guns off the street. Now, they're going after robberies -- from bank takeovers to hand-bag snatches.

"I don't accept the idea that high crime is a matter of living in a big city," Esserman said.

The announcement came the day after the first homicide of the year.

A 27-year-old Cranston man was shot in the Chad Brown housing project early Sunday morning. Emanuel J. Fermin lived long enough to run for his life down June Street. He collapsed in the street and lay there for several hours, until a passerby saw him and notified the police, said Detective Maj. Stephen Campbell. By then, Fermin was dead.

Last night, the police were searching for his killer.

The arrest rate for murders was less than 50 percent last year. Of the 17 homicides last year, 8 have resulted in arrests. The motives behind some of the murders varied from disputes to disturbances and a case of domestic violence. Others are unknown.

"Murders are hard to talk about," Campbell said. "People are afraid and don't want to become involved."

Last year's homicide rate is the lowest for Providence since 1997. That year, the police recorded 12 murders, according to department statistics.

The drop in homicide nationwide was attributed to the decrease in the crack cocaine trade, improvements in the economy, and the changing demographics. At the time, in 1997, under Chief Urbano Prignano Jr., the police were touting having more officers on the streets, meeting with neighborhood groups, and handling quality-of-life issues.

Crime rose again. By 2000, the murder rate had climbed back up to 30 and stayed in the mid-20s for the next several years.

The murder rate across the nation has fluctuated slightly. Some of the biggest declines were in cities that usually had high numbers of homicides.

Chicago, the nation's murder captial, saw its homicide rate decline by 25 percent last year. The number of murders also dropped in New York, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Washington, and Oakland. But the numbers rose in Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, and St. Louis.

An expert at Carnegie Mellon University says there's simply "no universal explanation."

Alfred Blumstein, director of the National Consortium on Violence Research, at the university's H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, said the current conditions throughout the nation suggest the crime rate should be rising.

Job growth is slow, police are being diverted for antiterrorism purposes, and there are fewer resources for social services. Here in Rhode Island, job growth has been slower than anticipated, a reflection of the lag in New England overall.

"The trend we saw was contrary to expectations," Blumstein said.

Crime rates began to fall in the mid-1990s -- witness Providence's drop in homicides. Now, Blumstein says, crime rates are localized. Cities with an increase may have a resurgence in the drug markets or criminals being released from jails. Those with a reduction may have improved their policing strategies.

Blumstein identified two strategies that work: using a computer-mapping system to track crimes and community policing.

Providence is doing both.

After one young teenager murdered another in 2003, the chief formed a gun task force to get guns off the streets. Then, all the officers got involved.

The results show in the decline in homicides, where 14 of the 17 victims were shot to death. The number of assaults with firearms dropped by 25.7 percent. Armed robberies dropped by 37.2 percent.

Another way of looking at it is to see all the guns taken off the street last year.

Sawed-off shotguns. Assault rifles. Snub-nosed handguns. Some with red laser attachments. Some with obliterated serial numbers.

Last year, the police seized 132 guns and arrested 123 people in connection with the guns. In 2003, the police seized 133 guns and arrested 115 people.

"Every time we take a gun off the street, we know we're preventing crimes, injuries, homicides," said Detective Sgt. Daniel Gannon, head of the gun task force, which seized 51 guns alone last year. "Who knows? It might be that next robbery, that next shooting."

From The Providence Journal

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Interesting article. Glad to see Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon is getting some press in NE. ;)

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I really like the district concept and sub station method they have started using. Small police like stations can be found all through out providence including a strip mall on the east side and on the "club" strip found on Pine Street.

Also on foot patrol officers can been seen throughout the city during summer-time months. Nothing beats on foot police when the officers becomes individually part of the community section he/she walks.

-Mike

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I've noticed the difference between having a beat cop this summer and not having one the summer before here on Federal Hill. The previous summer there was much more roudiness from the late night crowds. The beat cops also take care of quality of life issues like double parking. One double parked car can cripple traffic on Atwells Ave. and block traffic up back onto Route 95, it's amazing what that one little thing can do to improve the neighbourhood.

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I've noticed the difference between having a beat cop this summer and not having one the summer before here on Federal Hill. The previous summer there was much more roudiness from the late night crowds. The beat cops also take care of quality of life issues like double parking. One double parked car can cripple traffic on Atwells Ave. and block traffic up back onto Route 95, it's amazing what that one little thing can do to improve the neighbourhood.

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The substation thing is incredible personally, whenever I see a policeman walking the beat I make a point to go and thank them for the job they are doing..

I had the crime stats by neighborhood from 2003-2004, and was going to post it but I lost it.. I'll try to find it again..

The drop in crime in Olneyville was remarkable.. One thing I did notice was that robberies and burglaries rose in Federal Hill.. This may seem alarming, but I don't think so.. Its a sign that the area is getting better.. hahaha.. Doesn't make sense right.. Well, when more wealthy residents start moving to an area that was predominantly not wealthy, there is more to steal... So, burglaries rise, then taper off as more and more wealthy residents replace non-wealthy residents.. Its going to be interesting to watch this year to track the changes..

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I had the crime stats by neighborhood from 2003-2004, and was going to post it but I lost it.. I'll try to find it again..

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That would be interesting, do post it if you can find it.

The drop in crime in Olneyville was remarkable.. One thing I did notice was that robberies and burglaries rose in Federal Hill.. This may seem alarming, but I don't think so.. Its a sign that the area is getting better.. hahaha.. Doesn't make sense right.. Well, when more wealthy residents start moving to an area that was predominantly not wealthy, there is more to steal... So, burglaries rise, then taper off as more and more wealthy residents replace non-wealthy residents.. Its going to be interesting to watch this year to track the changes..

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I totally hear where you're coming from on this. Last year we had someone trying to break into our apartment (on Federal Hill). The police were very responsive and said it was likely someone on drugs trying to get caught (since he wasn't trying too hard to break in, I could break into my apartment in two seconds). They can't support their habit and getting caught is a way to put them into jail for a bit and get cleaned up, also gets people shaking 'em down for money off their backs for a while. We've since figured out who it was and had one of the neighbourhood guys "speak" to him (no not the mafia, and no he's not at the bottom of the river, :lol: ). We also had an alarm system installed, the landlord payed for the installation and added/fixed the locks on the front door.

Considering how much money is sitting up on Federal Hill on a weekend night there is surprisingly little crime, think of all the valeted BMers and such that could be broken into but aren't.

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And of course fed hill has the huge new police station sitting on its doorstep, even though the old ( abandoned ) one now houses drug attics.

Here are some photos I took inside the abandoned police station. While they aren

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Merrill Sherman: Reading Providence's drop in crime

Sunday, January 16, 2005

PROVIDENCE was the beneficiary of a significant drop in major crime during 2004. Other cities have not been so fortunate. There are some important messages that have been overlooked with respect to the plummeting murder and other major-crime rates in Providence.

First, good management makes a difference.

Second, despite its importance, good management is boring and not considered newsworthy by the news media.

Third, it is incumbent on members of the Providence community to trumpet the Police Department's accomplishments. Getting out the news will facilitate economic development, and the department's progress sets a great example of what good management and de-politicization of government agencies can accomplish.

Let's turn to the first message, good management. Police Chief Dean Esserman took office in January 2003. It was his record of achievement that led to his being hired, but to those of us who listened to him articulate his vision and plans, some things were immediately apparent: Esserman placed a tremendous emphasis on the need for integrity within the Police Department. He clearly intended to lead by example in this regard. Esserman also promptly changed the management of the force, sought input from patrolmen and patrolwomen, and instituted street patrols and community policing.

The differences are real. Within two months of his taking office, I noticed officers downtown at night, after I hadn't seen any in 20 years. Finally, the new chief has promoted on merit and begun training, both of which were lacking in the previous years.

In short, the 2004 crime results are being produced by a revitalized Providence Police Department and are no accident.

It is also pretty apparent that good management is boring. It is much more interesting to focus on problems and controversy. When a significant drop in crime was announced for the first six months of 2004, the news merited headlines and stories for one day. There was no follow-up on the management processes that had produced the crime drop, or coverage detailing what was being done differently or how changes were effected.

More publicity is needed on how strong leadership combined with vision, know-how and management skills makes a difference in government.

Finally, since good news gets less attention than bad, there was not much focus on the potential benefits of the drop in crime. This results in my third point: It is incumbent on all of us to get out there and talk up the implications of a safer city.

Public safety and security are keys to neighborhood revitalization. People want their children to be able to play in the streets, want to walk around without fear of assault, and want to be able to sleep soundly at night. Attracting people to visit Providence for our restaurants and theaters is one thing; attracting people permanently because we have safe streets and good schools is quite another.

Safe streets are an economic-development tool to attract a high-quality work force, to support property values (enhancing the property-tax base), and to lure employers to our capital city. Additionally, the crime statistics reflecting better policing are a strong illustration of the benefits of strong management in conjunction with de-politicization of the Police Department.

In his recent appearances before civic organizations, Police Chief Esserman has publicly and repeatedly thanked Mayor Cicilline for keeping his word not to interfere in the running of the Police Department. Additionally, Mayor Cicilline has given Chief Esserman the freedom to make the changes that he has had to make to get the job done.

The chief specifically says that not a day goes by without telephone calls from people trying to influence his decisions on which officers to assign to certain patrols or beats, which applicants to accept into the Police Academy, etc. He can deflect these calls because he has the support of Mayor Cicilline.

Let's hope that the new Providence Police Department serves as an example for other areas of government. So much can be accomplished simply with good management.

P.S.: Thanks, Chief Esserman, for doing an outstanding job.

Merrill Sherman, of Providence, is chief executive of Bancorp Rhode Island.

From The Providence Journal

Ironically, after having read the crime numbers last week, I got home from work on Friday to find that my neighbours' apartment had been robbed.

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