PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Crime in Rhode Island's capital city was down in nearly every measurable category with the exception of robberies during the first three months of 2013, according to data published by the Providence Police Department.
Sex offenses, motor vehicle thefts and weapons offenses were among the categories that saw the steepest drops between the first quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013. The city experienced its first homicide of the year Thursday. Only robberies—75 in 2013 compared with 58 at the same time in 2012— have spiked.
The statistics analyzed by WPRI.com came on the same day that the city released a report that showed overall crime was down 4% in 2012 compared with 2011. Mayor Angel Taveras told WPRI.com that he is particularly happy with an increase in arrests despite having smaller police force.
"I think the police department are really doing a very good job under very difficult circumstances," Taveras said. "They're literally doing more with less."
Taveras said he is pleased with the work the department has done under the leadership of Commissioner Steven Pare, but stressed that the city needs to maintain its focus because crime can come in waves.
The first-term Democrat said he is committed to expanding the police force, investing in after-programs and advocating for "common sense" gun control legislation. He also praised the work of the Institute for Nonviolence, which has helped curb gang violence despite having to slash its staff due to budget cuts.
Teny Gross, who heads up the institute, told WPRI.com that only three of the city's 17 homicides in 2012 were gang-related. In other parts of the country, like Chicago, Gross said three quarters of the killings are usually tied to gangs.
"My concern is that now if we have gang and crew violence erupt, do we have enough street workers," Gross said. "Changing one life takes a lot of effort."
Councilman Michael Correia praised the police department for continuing to reduce crime in the capital city. He credited Police Chief Hugh Clements and Major Thomas Verdi with helping to raise morale on the force following the resignation of Col. Dean Esserman.
"I think since Col. Esserman has left, the morale in the Providence Police Department has turned around significantly," Correia told WPRI.com. "Col. Clements and Major Verdi are both well-respected and the guys are showing that there's more pride out there."
Councilman Bryan Principe said he was encouraged to see a reduction in crime in 2012 and during the first months of 2013, but suggested that improving the economy is the best option for crime prevention. He said he hopes the mayor's proposed economic action plan will result in hiring more officers.
"Obviously crime is one of those things that is at the top of everyone's mind," Principe told WPRI.com. "But we still have our work cut out for us."
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