Violent crime down, property crime up

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After a year of a record low crime rate in 2018, the crime rate in the City of Roxboro grew about 2.5 percent in 2019.

According to the Roxboro Police Department, the 2019 crime rate was 51.86 crimes reported per 1,000 people.

The past year also saw a 3.6 percent rise in property crimes such as breaking and entering and larceny and a 1.14 percent decrease in violent crimes such as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

The city saw 8.74 violent crimes and 43.11 property crimes per 1,000 people.

The RPD responded to one murder, two rapes, 12 robberies and 58 reports of aggravated assault. The department also responded to 86 reports of breaking and entering, 268 larcenies and 6 motor vehicle thefts in 2019.

Roxboro Chief of Police David Hess credited his officers for the work they did over the year and the partnerships formed.

“I’m very proud of our officers for their dedication to reducing crime, thankful for our citizens who call us when they see something and for the Roxboro Housing Authority for their partnership,” Hess said.

Hess said the opportunity for off duty officers to work at RHA allowed the department to build meaningful relationships with residents and serve as a visual deterrent for any criminal activity. Hess also said RHA’s leadership has been instrumental in improving the quality of life for their residents.

Hess said crime rates do ebb and flow, but there has been a noticeable trend since 2015.

“I think what the trend shows is that since 2015, the policing principles of this department and the relationships we have built are making a positive impact to reduce our crime rate,” he said.

In reaction to the city’s rise in property crime, Hess said citizens play a key role in property crime prevention.

“The citizens have a role in making their neighborhoods safe,” he said. “Criminals prey on Personians’ complacency in believing that where they live is safe. Unfortunately, in the 21st century, we can’t leave our cars unlocked anymore. We’re not the rural community we once were. Something as simple as locking your car door can deter burglary.”

Violent crimes fall

The police department’s 2019-2021 strategic plan, published in Februrary 2019, included a goal to decrease the city’s violent crime rate citing the city’s three-year average violent crime rate which was about 3 percent higher than the state average.

Hess again credited his staff and emphasized the measures that were put in place.

“I think our decrease in violent crime is a testament to our staff,” Hess said. “They were intentional in making sure that the rise in violent crime no longer occurs. While we can’t prevent every violent crime from occurring, the measures that we’ve put in place are making an impact.”

Hess said his department has taken on directed patrols in high-crime areas, intentional positive engagement with the community, partnerships with community groups such as the NAACP and educating the community through Citizens’ Police Academy and Barbership Uncut sessions to build relationships and help curtail violent crime in the city.

“All of our strategies and policing theories are connecting to produce the results we’re starting to see,” he said.

Hess said he is seeing community-minded principles build positive relationships between his department and the public.

“We received more requests in 2019 to participate in a variety of community outreach and there were times we had to not participate because we didn’t have the staffing available or we were already committed to another event,” Hess said. “I’m encouraged that the community wants the police in a non-enforcement capacity at their own events – religious, neighborhood, business events – we’re being asked to be there and those are great opportunities.”

Meeting the community

A particular highlight was the beginning of the Barbershop Uncut series of conversations between the community and RPD held regularly at Miracles Barber Shop and Hair Salon.

“We intentionally started those meetings to build relationships, legitimacy and trust in our community,” Hess said. “We’ve seen candid conversations, but as a result of being transparent and candid, trust and legitimacy (are) being built in neighborhoods that hasn’t been built before. It’s a two-way bridge. The community has to want to build a bridge with us and we have to want to build a bridge with the community.”

The department received 19,781 calls for service, up almost 1,700 calls from last year, according to the RPD.

This shows an increased demand for service which will require conversations on the staffing needs of the department, Hess said, which will apply to other city functions also.

“An increase of 1,700 calls for service is a tremendous strain on our resources,” he said.

The increase in calls could be a result of the city’s overall population growth, but that will be clear after the census is taken in 2020, Hess said.

“We’ve forcasted our growth in previous strategic plans, but it’s a balance between the city’s other needs that require immediate attention,” he said. “The government’s number one responsibility is public safety.”

The public’s safety will also help the city in terms of economic development.

“If businesses are looking for viable employees, those employees have to live nearby and people want to live where they feel safe and where there are amenities,” Hess said. “Without public safety and a low crime rate, we become a stumbling block to economic development. So, we play a vital role in economic development opportunities.”

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