State police: Suffolk region’s third-safest city

Published 9:18 pm Thursday, May 10, 2012

Suffolk had the third-lowest violent crime rate of the seven Hampton Roads cities in 2011, a result the police department chalks up to focusing on gang activity.

The city experienced 303 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, making it third to Hampton, with 261 incidents per 100,000 residents, and Virginia Beach, with 177 incidents per 100,000 residents, according to Crime in Virginia 2011, a report by Virginia State Police.

Maj. Stephanie Burch, its deputy chief of operations, said Suffolk Police Department has been proactive in targeting gang-related crime.

Email newsletter signup

“We always want to be the lowest, or in the lowest, and I think we have worked hard with the implementation of our gang units to really hit the types of violent crimes that are more preventable,” she said. “We have done that with respect to really being very proactive in our gang enforcement.”

Neighborhood Enforcement Teams introduced in 2006 and added to in 2009 and 2010 are targeting this situation, she said.

“We have continued to see the benefit of those,” she said. “If we have an assault by mob, we immediately get on that as a potential gang issue.”

In hitting gang-related violence, Suffolk police officers are fortunate to have more support from prosecutors and judges than many of their colleagues in other localities, Burch added.

Other types of violent crime in Suffolk, such as date rape and child abuse, often involve known offenders, Burch said.

According to the VSP figures, more violent than Suffolk are Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News and Chesapeake, with 586, 573, 472, and 398 violent crimes per 100,000 residents respectively.

The national and state violent crime benchmark includes the categories of homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Suffolk ranked second-lowest for property crime, according to the same figures, with 2,833 incidents per 100,000 residents; Virginia Beach had 2,785 such incidents per 100,000 people and the highest was Portsmouth with 5,579 per 100,000 people.

Property crime, according to the benchmark, includes burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.

“Burglary we have seen a very big spike in,” Burch said. “In a bad economy, property crimes go up, and robbery and larceny fits in there with respect to that.

“We’re really looking to enhance our investigative tools to target those crimes and target repeat offenders and make sure they won’t re-offend.”

Burch said Suffolk Police Department compares the crime rate to last year’s every two weeks and conducts a computer-based statistical analysis every month.