SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes has had a look at the numbers, and for the most part, likes what he sees when it comes to his department's efforts to reduce crime in Salisbury.
"Our numbers are showing that overall our total violent crime is down, as of December 31, end of the year, 14.1%," Chief Stokes said on Tuesday.
Chief Stokes points to several different factors that he says are making a difference, particularly in how the department now relates to the community.
"The city overall has tried to do that through the (community) planning sessions, some of the engagement efforts that we have been doing," Chief Stokes said. "The foot patrol is increasing a presence in the neighborhoods, it's also improving our engagement with the community so if something does happen then we are seeing people who are willing to come forward and help us."
Another important improvement was the rate at which the department was able to solve violent crime cases, particularly homicides. There were ten homicides in 2016, of which six remain unsolved. In 2017 there were eight incidents that resulted in nine homicides. Arrests have been made in each case in 2017.
"That's an area that we are certainly going to focus on for in 2018, trying to figure out a way to effectively reduce that number," Chief Stokes added. "We were probably somewhere around 40% in 2016 that were resolved and we were 100% for 2017."
Outreach efforts and partnerships with other law enforcement agencies has also made a significant impact, according to the chief.
"I think we tried to do some things with our detectives and with assistance from either the (Rowan) sheriffs office or SBI, and they definitely have a been very close partners in responding and investigating these incidents," Stokes said.
Chief Stokes also addressed the staffing issue at the department. At one time there were more than a dozen positions that needed to be filled.
In 2017 the department began going after qualified applicants with the use of billboards and other outreach methods, and starting pay was increased to make the department more competitive with neighboring agencies.
"We entered into 2017 with a significant staffing crunch we anticipate that we will be out of that this year 2018," Stokes said. "It will still be a bit in a training mode but with the other increased number of folks available today to do some of the things that we've been able to do."
Stokes also says that for 2018 of the highest priorities will be to reduce the number of calls in the community for assault with a gun cases.
"That's definitely something that we're going to try and find new and innovative things we can do to hopefully reduce that," Stokes said. "I think that's the most significant issue facing us for 2018."