The city’s crime rate dropped in every category except homicides, Winston-Salem Police Chief Barry Rountree told members of the news media Monday at the Public Safety Center.
As a whole, violent crime was at a five year low in 2013, and the number of homicides – 15 – was identical to that of 2011 and below 2009’s homicide rate of 16, the highest number since 2008. Even in its worst years, the city’s murder rate has ranked well below that of comparable cities like Greensboro, Durham and Charlotte, Rountree said.
“We’re not satisfied with this,” he stated. “We still have work to do, of course, in the areas of murders and homicides. One homicide is too many.”
Rountree attributes the overall downward trend to “the hard work of the women and men of the Winston-Salem Police Department.” In the coming year, the department will continue its proven method of employing “proactive policing,” he said.
“Our plan is to continue working with the community, working with our community partners, on the initiatives that we have to make this city safe,” Rountree stated. “…We tried to be more visible, we try to work in the community more.”
Although preliminary statistics point to a positive trend citywide, Marva Reid of the East/Northeast Winston Neighborhood Association said that is not the case in her community.
“The numbers don’t reflect the real crime that goes on in the Northeast area, because so much of it goes unreported,” she explained. “The residents feel like nothing’s going to be done about it, and that’s sad.”
Reid, a longtime community organizer and neighborhood watch captain, said she used to encourage her neighbors to report crimes that occurred in the area to the police, but she no longer does so because she says the risk of perpetrators discovering who reported them is too high. As a community leader, Reid says she is regularly approached by community members who have been victimized but do not report the incidents.
“They feel like, ‘Why bother?’” she related. “They just pray and hope that it won’t happen again.”
Reid said a persistent lack of trust between members of the predominantly black and brown community and the police is partially to blame for the underreporting of crime she has witnessed.
“The people still don’t trust the police department,” she declared. “That is the bottom line.”
The troubles her community faces predate Roundtree, whom Reid says has been “very responsive” to the community’s needs.
“He does an outstanding job as the chief,” she said of Rountree, who took office last summer. “He does the best that he can.”
Rountree says his department is working to address crime in all areas of the city. A Street Crime Unit was added in November and will continue to work strategically to reduce and prevent crimes of all sorts, including homicides, the chief said.
“These kinds of things are things that law enforcement can’t predict, but what we can do is try to have our people in the right place at the right time,” he explained. “…We’re trying to increase police presence as best as we can. We’re trying to enhance our deployments.”
Dottie Jordan, chief of the Southeast Community Neighborhood Association, said she has seen a significant decrease in crime in her neighborhood over the course of the last year. Break-ins and drug activity were once an issue in the neighborhood, but thanks to the work of the WSPD, those issues have been quashed and residents are now able to turn their attention to lesser concerns: getting speed bumps installed to deter speeding in the neighborhood, said Jordan, a native of Louisville, Ken.
“Our crime is down because we get a report every time we have a community meeting,” noted Jordan, a retiree and great-great grandmother of 11. “It has gone down quite a bit, and I have to give a shout-out to the policemen in our community because they do patrol our community.”
The statistics detailed during the press conference last week were based on preliminary results; final statistics are slated be released in the coming weeks, Rountree said.