Striking while it’s hot

Published 9:58 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It’s hard to argue with solid statistics, and in the case of Suffolk’s crime rates, the solid statistics are pointing to very good news.

As of Dec. 15, crime was down 8.9 percent in Suffolk compared to the same time period in the previous year, Suffolk Police Chief Bennett said recently. 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 rose from 2009.

Motor vehicle thefts in 2010 rose to 83 from 80 the previous year, denying the city the experience of having crime rates fall in all of the major areas that are watched.

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Still, though, the numbers are worth celebrating. Homicide was down 42 percent, and rape and arson both declined by 56 percent. Burglary, aggravated assault and robbery all dropped between 6 and 16 percent. The larceny category showed a percentage decline of only 5 percent, but that reflects a decrease of 80 crimes.

“That’s fairly significant,” Bennett said.

Indeed, Suffolk has much to celebrate and ample reason to be proud. Through the concerted efforts of police, citizens and prosecutors, criminals have begun to get the message that most folks in this city will not sit idly by and watch their home be destroyed by punks with nothing but disdain for their neighbors.

Certainly, there are few weeks that pass without some new evidence that there are still people in Suffolk who would prey on others for their own personal gain — or, in some particularly egregious cases, their own perverse delight. This newspaper, along with the area’s other media outlets, spends considerable time and space reporting on the activities of such people.

But Suffolk citizens can be proud that violent crime and thefts still are unusual enough to be considered newsworthy here. And the statistics seem to show that — at least in the last year — those societal problems have become even more unusual.

It is at once ironic and appropriate that within just this environment of improving crime rates a group of citizens has organized to help rally the city’s youth against violence. Better to do so when such violence is still rare enough to be repugnant to the average citizen of any age than to wait until the city’s impressionable youth are inured to it.

Strike while the iron is hot, as it were. Build on recent successes. But whatever happens, Suffolk’s citizens cannot relax in their fight against crime.