Ridgeland crime drops more than 15 percent in 2017

By MEGAN PHILLIPS,

Ridgeland Police Chief John Neal credits his officers being more present in the community for 15 percent crime reduction between 2016 to 2017.

“We had a great year last year,” Neal said. “Some of these numbers we got some control over, in terms of deterrence, in the way we handle domestic cases so that they don’t escalate. The officers (now) go back and do follow-ups to get them in a safer place. We’re trying to do proactive stuff to keep it from festering into something bigger.”

Homicide decreased by 100 percent — the city experienced one occurrence of homicide in 2016 and none last year.

“We had no homicides last year. In 2016, our only homicide was domestic related,” Neal said. “Ridgeland doesn’t have a lot of homicides, so 100 percent increase or decrease isn’t a big deal. But, when you look at higher frequency, higher volume crimes, that’s… good work on the street.”

There was also only one rape in 2016, and none last year. Sexual assault was down by 60 percent, with five in 2016 and only two in 2017.

Robbery was down by 63 percent. In 2016, the city experienced 38 robberies. Last year, the number decreased to only 14.

“In 2016, the big spike we had, the Hispanic community was targeted for armed robberies,” Neal said. “Our control division recognized that, and we refocused some of our patrol divisions and hit these densely-populated areas where these crimes were happening to make a visual presence.”

Larcenies with assault decreased by one count, with seven committed in 2016 and six last year. Larcenies were down by 80 counts, 12 percent. The city had 644 counts in 2016 and 564 last year.

“We’re just taking ownership of what the numbers were in 2016,” Neal said. “Now, it’s all boots on the ground. (The numbers in 2016) are not the standard we want for our citizens, so we attacked it aggressively, and we’re going out there and having a presence, being observational… We know with the numbers, we’ve deterred a lot of stuff.”

Neal added that Ridgeland officers are working to be more proactive while making sure to be seen.

“The only way to lower numbers is to tell patrol officers to be aggressive, be proactive, be diligent, be visible, be seen in the community, and we’ll run criminals out of here. Ridgeland is still proactive, not reactive… We’re able to visit with our community.”

Aggravated assault was the crime in which the city experienced an increase in occurrences between 2016 and 2017. 

“There was a change in the domestic violence statute — any type of choking, that made it aggravated (assault). That’s probably where the numbers are coming from,” Neal said. “Simple assault, or domestic assault, has been bumped up to aggravated because of choking.”

Burglaries are down by 10 counts and 16 percent between 2016 and 2017. There was a string of burglaries committed by the same culprit in early 2016, partially accounting for the sharp uptick in the number of robberies.

“In early 2016, there was a serial burglar in Madison and at the Renaissance who accounted for 10 or 12 incidents. We took that guy out of the mix, and our numbers have been holding steady.”

Neal said citizens took the opportunity away from many potential criminals last year as well.

“No one’s going to break into an empty car, break a window or jimmy a locked car. If there’s nothing to get a thief’s attention, we put that to the citizens. They’re heeding the warning to take care of your stuff. If there’s a criminal looking for an opportunity, citizens taking their stuff and patrol cars are looking around, that takes away the lack of fear criminals have.”

Business owners are also becoming more likely to invest in technology and surveillance, which further reduces the risk of break-ins.

“Business owners getting alarm systems and security cameras systems as well as patrols at night and ‘shining bricks’ — checking businesses, making sure no one’s lurking where they shouldn’t be.”

Auto thefts are down by 27 percent, with 16 counts in 2017 compared to 22 in 2016. Arson was another count that decreased by 100 percent, with only one count in 2016 and none last year.

Crime is highest during the early summer months and the beginning of winter, according to Neal.

“Any time that school gets out and there’s lots more free time for high school or college students, there’s more activity,” he said. “It’s high May through June and late November and early December, but it works itself out by the end of the year. In the late summer and early fall, it slows with people going back to school and getting back into the fall routine.”

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