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Part I crime in the City of Racine is at a 50-year low, and the police department’s community policing program deserves a large measure of credit for bringing those numbers down.

“Our Community Oriented Policing has everything to do with the lower statistics,” Racine police Chief Art Howell told Racine County Eye. “The COP philosophy has allowed many of our officers to develop personal relationships in the community. This becomes really important when trouble arises.”

In communities without COP units, there might not be any trust between residents and the police, so citizens aren’t providing information to offices when crime occurs, he continued. But, in Racine, community policing has helped increase trust and opened lines of communication.

“Over the last 20 years under the COP philosophy, the level of trust has grown,” Howell added. “The level of community support and cooperation has grown over time as well.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released the new crime statistics last week under the Uniform Crime Reporting based on information received from the Racine Police Department.

Overall, Part I crimes – homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault – are down 8.2 percent from 2013 to 2014; 3,317 to 3,030, respectively. Howell did note that armed robbery ticked up in 2014 based in part on the slew of crimes allegedly committed by Jesus Arroyo.

Arroyo was charged last week with numerous felonies after he admitted to taking part in at least 11 armed robberies of area businesses last year. He escaped police custody last June while being transported to the Racine County Jail but was back behind bars 12 hours later.

There was an increase in homicides in 2014 – from one in 2013 to four – including the unsolved case of Joseph Walker who was shot to death during the armed robbery of the American Legion bar last May.

Howell said investigators are determined to bring closure to Walker’s family this year.

“This remains the only unsolved case in the past two years,” he confirmed. “We will remain laser-focused on bringing closure to this family in 2015.”

Firearms Recovered

The number of guns taken off city streets in 2013 and 2014 combined was 415, up from the 272 collected in the previous 24-month period of 2011-2012.

“It is a high probability that additional homicides and attempted homicides were prevented during the past few years due to the great work performed by RPD personnel in aggressively removing weapons from the streets of our community,” Howell explained.

In the last five years, the number of guns taken off the street looks like this:

  • 2014:       201
  • 2013:       214
  • 2012:       129
  • 2011:       143
  • 2010:       129

Shots fired calls, though, have gone up every year in the last five:

  • 2010:       307
  • 2011:       331
  • 2012:       439
  • 2013:       475
  • 2014:       536

Howell said that while he can’t offer a concrete reason for the increase in shots fired calls, his department is constantly monitoring data.

“The increase in weapons recovered over the past two years illustrates that our officers are laser-focused on dealing with this problem,” he stated. “As opposed to making assumptions regarding why trends increase, we focus on known root causes like gang activity, drug trafficking, robbery investigations and all other offenses where weapons are used.”

Moving forward

Howell said part of the reason violent crime incidents have gone down in the last year is because of community support; from neighbors to area businesses to partnering with local organizations.

“From Crime Stoppers to the We Are Racine (WAR) drop-in center on Jacato Drive, to the donations we receive from area businesses for our K9 program,” he stated. “All of these factors contributed to the record-low Part I crime data. Through working with the community a great deal has been accomplished.”

The chief acknowledged there’s good news to recognize and still a lot of work to do as the city moves toward safer neighborhoods for everyone.

“While Part I crime was reduced for two years in a row, more work remains ahead as we seek to make our community even safer,” Howell concluded. “We should all be encouraged by the downward trend, and collectively committed to future reductions.”