Crime drops in SRHA communities

Published 10:25 pm Friday, June 23, 2017

The board of the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority is weighing whether to continue paying for extra law enforcement services after a positive report on crime numbers on SRHA properties.

Extra law enforcement services have been provided since about 2013, after a summer that saw two homicides in quick succession at the same SRHA property.

Neither of the homicides involved an SRHA resident, and arrests were made in both cases, Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett said. But the authority found it prudent to bring in reinforcements to help make the communities safer.

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The authority now pays more than $7,000 per year for two officers to work on SRHA properties on the weekends. Bennett said the officers leave their SRHA duties only for major incidents where fellow officers need assistance.

“They don’t answer calls for service or anything like that,” Bennett said. “If they get calls in the properties, they handle them.”

Bennett attended last month’s SRHA board meeting to give a report on crime numbers before and after the extra security detail was put into effect.

Serious crimes have dropped in nearly every area, Bennett said.

Homicide, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, vehicle theft and arson all have decreased. There have been no homicides on SRHA properties since the two in the summer of 2013.

The only category of what are known as “Part I” crimes that has seen a slight uptick since 2014 is robbery.

Bennett noted that from 2010 to 2016, there was an average of less than one violent crime a month across all five of SRHA’s properties, which house 466 families.

“You can’t do any better than that, in my opinion,” Bennett said. “Y’all have very little crime. That’s pretty impressive.”

Bennett hesitated to say the decrease in crime is due to his officers’ increased presence.

“I believe it’s a combination of a whole lot of factors,” he said.

Crime overall in the city has decreased, Bennett noted. The economy is improving, and police are making headway in taking gang members and drug dealers off the streets.

“I can’t say it’s our officers, but I believe them being out there is a deterrent in and of itself,” he said. “This uniform being seen helps. How much it helps, I can’t tell you that. I can guarantee you it doesn’t hurt. If we’re out there harassing them all the time, they’re going to find someplace else to go.”

Board members of the housing authority were pleased with the report.

“I thought you had a very positive report,” chairman Branch Lawson said.

Executive Director Tracey Snipes said this month that the report was enlightening.

“Crime does exist, but probably no more than any other neighborhood,” she said. “I’m really proud the communities do have such a low crime rate. I think it has to do with people taking pride in their communities.”