Caitlin Davis, The Hopewell News
HOPEWELL — For the fourth straight year, the Hopewell Police Department brought down crime in the city. Last year, the city saw a 14 percent reduction in major crime, and under the leadership of Chief John Keohane, the officers are working to make 2015 another historical low for crime in Hopewell.
Across all the categories, the biggest reductions, and most notable, are robberies and burglaries in the city. Burglaries in Hopewell went from 227 incidents to 136, a reduction of 40 percent from the previous year. The number of robbery incidents went from 34 to 27, a reduction of 21 percent.
This change represents a large decrease since 2010. In 2010, the city saw a total of 1,099 incidents of property crime. In 2014, the number of incidents dropped to 671. There was also a large decrease in the total incidents of violent crime in Hopewell. In 2010, there were a total of 193 violent crimes and in 2014, a total of only 77 incidents.
Major crimes in the city have also seen a decrease. In 2010, the number of major crime incidents came in at 1,292 and in 2014, the number of incidents dropped to 748.
The key to the reductions, Keohane said, was a focus on offenders and, in many cases, re-offenders. For example, he continued, two juveniles had been released from the detention home, and within a week re-offended.
“It’s constant,” Keohane said. “You have to always pay attention to it. That’s why we pay attention to who gets out of jail and who gets out of the detention home too, and does crime increase in the neighborhoods they return to.”
Lt. Michael Langford, with the HPD, said the department works closely with the crime analyst to determine the high areas of crime in the city and where to best deploy available resources. Langford said the department has also partnered with probation and parole to complete curfew checks. He said the department has been successful with the partnership and Keohane added that the department has seen a higher compliance rate now that “the word is out.”
“Officers randomly will check on these offenders who maybe we’ve identified and we’ve actually gone back through these checks and had people basically revoked or actually their probation violated because of these checks,” Langford said.
From 2014 into this year, Keohane and members of the department are continuing to focus on another issue in the city, larceny from unlocked vehicles. Keohane said the offenders are not breaking windows to get into the vehicles, but rather just opening the unlocked doors, estimating that 95 percent of the vehicles broken into have been unlocked.
Sgt. William Absher, with the HPD, said residents are leaving high-ticket items, such as computers, weapons, and money in unlocked cars. Keohane said once the offender gains access to the car, that person will check the glovebox, center console, and under and between the seats, searching for items.
The officers keep stressing to residents to remove valuables from the vehicle, park in a well-lit area, and most importantly lock the doors.
“Simple things that we continuously are passing the information out but for some reason it’s not getting done,” Langford said.
Keohane said the department is also working to reduce the number of frauds in the city. In 2013, the department had a total of 139 fraud offenses and in 2014, a total of 125 incidents, a reduction of 10 percent.
“There’s really not much we can do except educate the public,” Keohane said.
Oftentimes, the victims of these crimes are the elderly population in the city, with the offenders being family members.
“It’s people you know,” Keohane said. “Stealing ATM cards, making a duplicate ATM card, stealing from elderly relatives, through checks, or Internet scams.”
Recently, Absher said, a resident in Hopewell fell victim to a Craigslist scam. He said the individual was interested in an item and wanted to make a purchase. Absher said the victim sent the person on Craigslist a little over $8,000 via PayPal, and never received the item.
Though the department has reduced crime in many categories across the board, Keohane said the department also increased crime. In 2013, there were no prostitution offenses and in 2014, there were a total of 25.
“We had 25 prostitution arrests last year because we focused on prostitution,” Keohane said. “And before that, I don’t think we ever had more than two arrests for prostitution in the last five or six years. When you focus on an issue, you usually can find it.”
The department has also increased the number of weapons law offenses. In 2013, there were a total of 72 violations and in 2014, the violations increased to 87, a 21 percent increase. Keohane said this is from the officers in the department being proactive and looking beyond a simple traffic stop, noting that “many times you come up with illegal firearms.”
To also combat crime in the city, Keohane has worked to help engage the community, making the presence of officers more known. In 2014, the department conducted 210 outdoor roll calls, conducted 1,766 field interviews and had 2,025 hours of alternative patrols, foot and bike patrols, a 24 percent increase from 2013.
The department has five community police officers who are assigned to specific areas and neighborhoods within Hopewell. There are also two school resources officers, one at Carter G. Woodson Middle School and Hopewell High School, as well as a crime prevention officer.
Neighborhood Watch groups in the city are also ranking high in numbers, another crime prevention tool, Keohane said. In 2014, there were a total of 17 Neighborhood Watch Groups.
Another tool to aid in crime reduction has been partnerships, Keohane said. In 2013, the Tri-Cities Regional Task Force was established. The force includes state, local, and federal agencies, such as Virginia State Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the U.S. Marshals, to name a few.
“They are all working on a variety of cases throughout the city of Hopewell with us in partnership,” Keohane said. “It’s those relationships and those extra resources that have helped us also.”