We’ll put this as bluntly as possible: Anyone who thinks Danville is a crime-ridden city doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And Danville Police Chief Scott Booth has the data to back it up.
For 2019, overall crime rates were down across just about all categories, thanks in no small part to the dedication and perseverance of law enforcement and prosecutors. After joining forces several years ago with federal law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Roanoke to break the backs of two warring criminal factions, we’ve also seen the numbers of incidents revert to their historical norms.
Just compare these numbers for 2019 with data from 2018. There were eight homicides in 2019, a 27 percent drop from the 11 recorded in 2018. Forcible sex offenses dropped 44 percent from 45 in 2018 to 25 in 2019, while robberies dropped 62 percent from 60 in 2018 to 22 last year.
In discussing the 2019 data at a news conference a couple of weeks ago, Chief Booth gave high praise to the men and women of the department for the hard work they’ve put in to bring about this impressive turnaround from several years ago. Evidence of officers’ diligence comes in the department’s clearance rates — the total number of crimes solved and a person charged.
One 2019 clearance rate percentage Booth is especially proud of comes in the burglaries category. Burglaries, as the chief points out, are notoriously difficult to solve because, simply put, they occur when there’s no one around to witness the act. The FBI reports an average national clearance rate for burglaries of 13.9 percent for 2019; Danville Police cleared 182 cases for a clearance rate of 28.7 percent, almost double the national average. And those eight homicides? Six have been cleared, for a 75 percent clearance rate.
Booth points to one move the department has taken that has contributed to the drop in crime rates: dividing the city into geographic enforcement zones with department commanders responsible for each region. Known as a “stratified policing model,” the approach involves analyzing data such as service calls to “predict,” for lack of a better word, where the department should position resources prior to criminal activity occurring. Along with working with neighborhood and community leaders, churches, civic groups and concerned individuals, the approach seems to be working.
The benefits for Danville are obvious. It’s easier to recruit new employers to a city that has a top-notch police department and dropping crime rates. It’s easier, say, for Averett University to market the school to applicants and their parents. It’s an easier sell to new residents looking for a new place to call home and easier to convince current residents to stay.
To Chief Booth and the men and women he serves with and commands, we say congratulations and thank you. Now, let’s get to work so, a year from now, we can say the 2020 rates dropped even further.