Violent crime in Columbia is down so far this year compared to the same time last year, but Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said it’s not time to celebrate just yet.
Holbrook’s presentation on his five-year strategic plan to Columbia’s Public Safety Committee earlier this week was cut short, but he was able to share some of the year-end and year-to-date statistics and evidence of declining crime in Columbia.
So far this year, violent crimes including homicide, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault, are down 43 percent, compared to the same time period in 2014. But there is still work to be done as the city’s violent crime statistics are still well above the national average, the chief explained.
“This is a two-month snap shot,” Holbrook said. “It’s pretty significant, but again, it’s a snap shot. You don’t want to start doing the touchdown dance because we have got a long year ahead of us.”
Regardless, Holbrook said he is pleased with the numbers so far, and he attributes the declining numbers to the efforts of department employees, despite staffing challenges.
Holbrook said the department plans to put more emphasis on staffing between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m., when a little more than 50 percent of crimes occur each day.
But the chief said the most alarming statistics to come from 2014 are the 1,458 shots-fired calls police responded to throughout the city. And while some of those were unconfirmed reports or were ultimately fireworks, Holbrook said the vast majority were legitimate shots-fired calls.
There have been 118 victims connected to the recorded shots-fired calls. Holbrook said the lack of evidence at a scene of a suspected shooting can make it tough for officers to find out who is responsible.
“We are wanting to do better in drilling down on it,” Holbrook said. “You have the call that gets us going to where the reported incident is, but it may be unfounded. It could have been fireworks or there is no evidence whatsoever that it occurred.”
But when there is evidence – such as shell casings, a victim or witness who is able to recount what happened – it puts officers one step closer to connecting the dots from past incidents or even helping prevent other incidents from happening in the future, he said.
Throughout 2014, Columbia police officers seized 426 firearms and countless shell casings from scenes, which will be analyzed to see if they are connected in other incidents that may break a case.
Holbrook said the department is working with the State Law Enforcement Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in refining how the Columbia Police Department collects and enters data of gun seizures and shell casings into a national database, which will help crack down on gun crime.