FALL RIVER – Violent crime has been decreasing for years in Fall River, but you wouldn’t know it from the commentary on social media or the recent election where some of the city’s mayoral candidates raised concerns about public safety.
“When there’s an election, and a serious incident happens, it brings it to the forefront and people remember the most recent incident,” Fall River Police Chief Al Dupere said in a recent sit-down interview.
Some of those recent incidents include a daytime shots-fired incident in downtown Fall River on Jan. 22; a Feb. 21 bank robbery where the suspects were two teenage girls; and a Feb. 13 homicide where a 16-year-old boy is accused of stabbing his cousin to death.
But despite those high-profile crimes, which were magnified in the heat of a mayoral recall campaign, the city’s police chief said the statistics show Fall River is the safest it has been in years.
“That’s why I think the perception is out there that Fall River is unsafe or getting unsafe, that crime is rising when in fact that’s not the case,” Dupere said.
Overall, violent crimes – murder, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault – decreased from 937 incidents in 2017 to 924 in 2018, which is a 1.39 percent decrease.
Robberies fell by more than a third – 35.6 percent – going from 191 in 2017 to 123 last year. The notable statistic here is that business robberies went from 103 in 2017 to just 13 in 2018.
Aggravated assaults increased a little more than five percent from 661 to 695 in 2018. The statistics in this category actually show an upward trend since 2014, when 622 such incidents were reported.
Sexual assaults also jumped from 82 to 104, a 26.83 percent increase that Dupere attributes to a greater awareness of and willingness to report sex crimes.
Last year, Fall River had two murders; the city has already had two this year. Since 2014, Fall River police have investigated between one and three murders each year.
Meanwhile, property crimes such as burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson have also been on the decline since 2014.
Other interesting 2018 statistics from the Fall River Police Department’s annual crime report:
– 72 people were arrested on firearm-related charges, which was a decrease from the 95 firearm arrests in 2017. However, police seized 267 guns last year, which was almost a 60 percent increase from the previous year.
– Fall River Police arrested 199 alleged members of the 40 BLOCC, Asian Boyz, Bloods, Crips, Shotgun Crips, Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings, and other street gangs.
– 490 people were arrested on drug charges.
– 96 people were arrested on prostitution charges.
– There were 126 total shots-fired calls: 3 fatal, 42 non-fatal, 81 were unfounded.
– There were 3,691 domestic violence calls. That was an increase from 3,448 the previous year and continues a growing trend since 2015.
– There were 75,335 calls for service, which decreased by 15 percent from the previous year.
Other takeaways from Fall River Reporter interview with Chief Al Dupere:
As new officers complete the police academy and field training, Dupere said the department will be increasing the numbers of officers assigned to the Vice and Intelligence Unit (which investigates local drug cases), the Gang Unit, and Major Crimes divisions.
“In the past, we’ve reacted to these incidents. This time, we’re not just going to react. We’re going to be proactive,” Dupere said.
In one recent mayoral debate, the candidates were asked what they thought drives the crime in Fall River. Dupere said it is no question that the illicit drug trade is the city’s major driver of crime.
ShotSpotter – the gunshot detection system – was done away with last year after too many missed calls and false reports. In its place, Dupere said, the police department will use funding to install 24 more public video cameras by the end of the year.