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Analysis: Crime rates trending downward

By Richard Yeakley
July 16, 2012 at 10 p.m.


Longview is a safer place today than it was five years ago, according to an analysis of crime data.

Texas Department of Public Safety data shows that while the state's overall crime rate decreased 7.3 percent from 2010 to 2011, the rate in Longview declined even more.

<em><strong>Editor's note:</strong> This is third in a series of stories examining homicide in Longview. Check out the <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/news/local/seeking-justice-twelve-homicides-in-longview-since-remain-unsolved/article_811e03f6-3859-5010-8d60-f21cb42011ae.html" target="_blank">first</a> and <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/news/local/analysis-homicide----percentage-of-black-victims-above/article_c4a380ef-3f62-58f2-b827-ea0c8485b5ff.html" target="_blank">second</a> stories. <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/news/homicides/" target="_blank">Click here</a> for more information on Longview homicides in the past five years.</em>

Longview is a safer place today than it was five years ago, according to an analysis of crime data.

Texas Department of Public Safety data shows that while the state's overall crime rate decreased 7.3 percent from 2010 to 2011, the rate in Longview declined even more.

Crime in the city declined 8.7 percent during the same time period, according to data supplied by the Longview Police Department.

The drop in the city's homicide rate is even steeper - falling 56 percent from 2010 levels.

Homicide cases in the city peaked during 2009, when 11 murders were reported.

Nine people were killed during 2008 and 2010, according to data provided by the Longview Police Department.

But by 2011, police worked four homicide cases - a rate the city is on pace to match in 2012.

Phillip Lyons, professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University, said it is nearly impossible to explain why crime rates drop or spike.

"The fact is we really don't know," Lyons said.

When people try to determine what causes crime they often are proven wrong, he said.

"A traditional understanding is that when the economy is going badly, crime rates go up. But in this current economic downturn we have seen, in general, a decrease in crimes across the board," Lyons said.

Longview police credit an increased focus on crime prevention - from the men and women on the beat all the way to the top brass - with the drop in the crime rate.

"Overall, crime is decreasing, in part, due to crime prevention efforts across the board," Police Spokeswoman Kristie Brian said in a statement.

"Crime prevention is an everyday practice for Longview Police Department officers. All the programs we promote do focus on deterring other crimes - which can aid in the prevention of homicide since many times the victims actually know their attackers," she said.

It is not just a decrease in crime incidents making the city safer, Brian said it is departmental efficiency.

<strong>Case solvency</strong>

Data obtained and analyzed by the News-Journal also revealed a higher crime solvency rate for homicide cases.

"Case solved" is defined by law enforcement agencies as any investigation that leads to the identification of a named suspect and, in the assessment of detectives, in which there is no further investigation to be done - even if a suspect is never brought to trial.

Police report solving 80 percent of the city's homicide cases since January 2011 by arrests, while from 2008-10 police solved 61 percent of the city's homicide cases.

"New technology through DNA and forensics has led to better clearance rates and identification of suspects," Brian said.

Brian said that improvement has led to the increase in arrests.

The spokeswoman also said police investigators undergo constant training in order to be on the forefront of crime investigation.

"Our investigators are highly trained in a variety of skill sets and have a high level of knowledge of crime scene investigation, interviewing, and forensics. They are constantly learning new techniques and strategies for investigating crimes," Brian said.

<strong>Faith in change</strong>

J.D. Palmer, pastor of Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, said he believes churches in Longview have helped lower the crime rate.

"I think that the Christian community is becoming aware how important it is to change attitude, and change the face of our community," Palmer said.

The church has joined with comunity members to hold prayer walks through neighborhoods identified as "high need" based on the number of emergency calls placed. City officials helped identify those locations.

"I thank God for the cooperation we have with the city government," Palmer said.

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<small>View <a href="http://batchgeo.com/map/4de15dd0f502ddd7ba87802b87dd0d46">Homicide Map</a> in a full screen map</small>

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