Crime rate falls in 2010

Published 7:24 pm Saturday, January 1, 2011

Flowers: A bouquet of flowers lies where Alissa Johnson, 25, was shot on Cogic Square this summer. Johnson’s is one of two homicides this year that remain unsolved, despite an overall crime rate that fell nearly 9 percent.

It was a good year for crime-fighters in the city of Suffolk.

Criminal offenses in 2010 were down nearly 9 percent compared to 2009. Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett attributes the decline to a number of factors, including effective police work, aggressive prosecution and critical help from law-abiding citizens.

“We’ve had a real good year as compared to last year,” Bennett said.

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As of Dec. 15, crime was down 8.9 percent in Suffolk compared to the same time period last year, Bennett said. In particular, of the eight “Part I” offenses monitored closely by police — homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft, burglary, larceny and arson — only one category has risen from 2009.

“The only one of them that is up any is motor vehicle theft,” Bennett said. That increase represents a rise of only three crimes, from 80 to 83.

Bennett boasts several significant decreases in the other categories: homicide is down 42 percent, and rape and arson both have declined by 56 percent.

Burglary, aggravated assault and robbery all have dropped between 6 and 16 percent.

The larceny category shows a percentage decline of only 5 percent, but that reflects a decrease of 80 crimes.

“That’s fairly significant,” Bennett said.

Bennett places the credit for the decline squarely on the shoulders of his department, the city’s prosecutors and an alert citizenry.

“I think we’ve got a really good criminal justice team,” Bennett said. “Our officers and detectives work real hard to solve cases and arrest the people that need to be arrested, and our assistant commonwealth’s attorneys work hard to prosecute these crimes.”

In addition, help from citizens has been especially effective this year, helping to solve several high-profile cases.

“We can’t do a lot of things we do without our citizens’ help,” Bennett said. “They provide us critical information.”

Bennett also credited some of the decline to the North Suffolk Neighborhood Enforcement Team. The new team was instituted a year ago after recognizing a need for one and seeing success with the downtown team.

“That’s made a tremendous difference,” Bennett said. “We’ve been able to keep a presence up north and downtown now.”

Finally, Bennett has a hunch that some of the city’s worst offenders are not currently on the streets.

“A small percentage of people commit a large percentage of crime,” he said. “I think we’ve probably got some of the right folks in jail right now. That’s just a feeling I have. I can’t prove that.”

The city ends the year with four homicides. Nobody has been charged in two of the slayings — 25-year-old Alissa Johnson on July 18, and 31-year-old Katina Jones, who was found dead in her apartment Nov. 7.

“Our investigators worked hard on those,” Bennett said. “We followed up on every single lead. We publicized them. We talked to different people. When we get that fresh information, we follow up on it.”

Bennett is confident suspects will be brought to justice in both cases, he said.

“All it takes is one person telling us something very critical,” he said. “Frequently, that’s how they’re solved.”

To provide information anonymously on any crime, call Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP. Callers to Crime Line never have to give their names or appear in court, and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.