Danville’s violent crime rates are trending downward over the last 10 years, and on Tuesday night, Police Chief Philip Broadfoot outlined steps to address concerns by City Council that the rates remain too high.
Those steps include hiring an additional four officers, reestablishing the street crimes unit but using a modified approach, and hiring an animal control officer for evening shifts to relieve police officers of that duty.
Broadfoot also said the department will hire a crime analyst – a position he believes will play a major role in crime reduction. The position is grant funded.
He presented the crime reduction strategies during City Council’s work session. During work sessions, City Council reviews non-routine matters that may be voted upon in future business sessions.
Currently, the Police Department is budgeted for 131. He asked City Council to authorize 135 positions. The gain of four positions would add one officer to each shift. Broadfoot said the additional officers would not require an increase in payroll because officer attrition annually leaves the department with unspent money for wages and benefits. Adding four officers, however, could eliminate future surpluses, he said.
Council members agreed the lack of future surpluses would not present a problem.
The Police Department first established a street crimes unit on Nov. 1, 2010, as part of a multifaceted initiative called “Safe & Sound Neighborhoods.” The initiative was designed to stabilize the troubled north-central area of Danville. Though there were homes in this area well maintained, stable and owner-occupied as much as any in the city, there were pockets of blight. What was more disturbing in this area, however, were the number of homicides – 13 in nearly five years.
The street crimes unit was designed to be proactive, with officers working as a team on nights and weekends. The officers were tasked not with only being visible but to make themselves known to citizens.
The unit later moved to other neighborhoods as needed, and then phased out.
The hiring of an animal control officer for evening shifts is needed, Broadfoot said, because officers now must answer those calls. He said animal control calls take officers away from their primary tasks.
Broadfoot reported the number of incidents for murder, robbery, abduction, aggravated assault and simple assault fluctuate from year-to-year, but they are trending downward in the past 10 years.
Ten-year trends for burglary, larceny, vandalism and weapons law also are on a downward path.
When the Virginia State Police released its annual report last summer, however, Danville held the second highest criminal incident rate among Virginia cities – despite a decline in Danville’s crime rate from the previous year.
City Council asked Broadfoot to develop crime reduction strategies in response, in part, to the report, but also to a spike in drive-by shootings seen in November and December.