We may as well get the bad news out of the way first: Homicides in Gregg County were up in Longview in 2018. Eight murders were reported, up from six six the year before.
As a percentage, the increase leaves a bit of a shocking impression — up 33 percent — so it is wise to remember changes in such small numbers make for big percentages. Looking at it another way, though, the number of homicides in our city remains far too high, though we’ve come a long way from a few years ago, when the annual number was in the double digits.
We should continue to remain shocked until the numbers come down.
Still, the number of homicides according to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Reports was the negative side. And Longview has much to be grateful for when looking at all the other categories in the report. And when comparing results here to neighboring Smith County.
Overall, violent crimes of all types including rape decreased by almost 16 percent during 2018 in the Longview metro area. That percentage represents a drop of more than 60 separate incidents and means many fewer people were physically harmed last year than the year before.
That is a good drop and a trend we hope to see continue.
Those of us who live here know Longview is not a violent or dangerous place in which to live. Most of us are never touched by or see that sort of violence. Still, this number also must be brought down more.
The most striking reduction was in the robbery category, where 46 incidents were reported in 2018 compared with 97 the year before. That’s a drop of more than half.
Though people often confuse the words “robbery” and “burglary,” they are quite different. In a robbery, someone directly takes something from you by force, either with or without a weapon involved. Burglaries involve taking something of value from of a business, home or vehicle without the owner’s knowledge.
In robbery, there is a face-to-face confrontation that does not exist in a burglary, which involves entering a place without permission. Thus, robbery is a more serious crime. To see such a drop in Longview is a welcome sign.
Burglaries, too, were down slightly, from 599 incidents in 2017 to 584 in 2018. What makes burglary disturbing is that people often feel unsafe returning to a place that has been burglarized, especially when it happened in their home.
Larceny and thefts occur when someone cheats or surreptitiously takes something. This would include scams of all sorts and shoplifting. Crimes in those categories were down by more than 9 percent.
This is all good news. But among the facts we have learned about crime numbers is that they rarely drop on their own. Law enforcers stand on the front lines of reducing crime rates and their hard work is responsible for most of the reduction.
Don’t believe it? Just ask officers in Smith County, where murders jumped to eight in 2018 from three in 2017 and reported rapes took a disturbing jump to 55 in 2018 from 29 in 2017.
But the rest of us have a part to play, too, both individually and as part of organizations to which we belong. Almost every community organization can play a part in encouraging order and peace. At the very least we all help police by reporting suspicious behavior and stepping forward when we witness crime.
As pleased as we are by the latest number, it is up to all of us to see that this trend continues. It will only happen if we all, from law officers to neighbors, remain vigilant.