Overall crime was down again in 2013

Overall crime was down again in 2013

NORTH PROVIDENCE - In 2013, the town saw its lowest crime numbers in years, say police officials, a continued decline they're attributing in part to a renewed faith on the part of the public in the North Providence Police Department.

Total offenses last year were down 21 total from 2012, from 1,246 to 1,225, and 278 crimes from the 1,503 that happened in 2006, according to data compiled by police for The Breeze.

One of the biggest drop-offs from seven years ago has been in the category of vandalism, damage and destruction, with totals falling from 439 incidents in 2006 to 232 incidents in 2013. The vandalism category was actually up slightly over 2012 but down sharply from 2011 and before.

Chief Paul Martellini said the continued decline in crime is surprising on one level, as the town continues a trend toward greater urbanization, but he also sees direct ties to strategic crime-fighting efforts on the part of his department, which is gradually winning back the trust of the town's residents.

Officers regularly take a "targeted" approach to an area where they're seeing higher numbers of a certain type of crime, said Martellini, working with residents of that area to address the problems quickly and efficiently.

Members of the public are more engaged than they've been in a long time with the process of combatting crime, said Martellini, and much of the reason for that can be attributed to police working hard to erase perceptions left by department scandals of the past.

"We've come a long way and I think we've restored the public's trust in us," he said.

One of his primary goals since taking over the department in an interim capacity three years ago after the theft scandal involving former Chief John Whiting has been to "restore the public's faith in this organization" and "getting the citizens back in the police department," said Martellini.

Police before could say all they wanted that town residents should trust them, said the chief, but as long as scandals kept cropping up with key members of the department, that trust was never going to be built.

There can be "a lot of factors" to lower crime numbers, including residents not reporting certain crimes, said Martellini, but he believes one of the primary reasons for the ongoing decline in crime is residents taking an interest in their community and trusting police enough to express their concerns.

"This is a very good community," said Martellini. "These people really are concerned about where they live and the quality of life here."

Sgt. Diana Perez has led a group of officers who "want to get out and meet the public," said Martellini. Officers have a "vested concern" in the reputation of the department and "took it personal" when commanding officers of the past damaged that reputation by committing improper or illegal acts, he said.

The North Providence Police Department's 2012 windfall from a settlement with Google will certainly help the progress being made on crime, said Martellini. You can't just "throw money" at problems, but giving police the best equipment and training available, as well as throwing resources behind community policing initiatives, certainly helps the cause.

Martellini said he would have to conduct an in-depth analysis to determine exact factors in the town's ongoing downward trend in crime.

Other crime categories that saw their lowest numbers in years during 2013 included drugs/narcotics violations, down from 118 in 2012 to 75 in 2013; motor vehicle theft, down from 73 incidents in 2012 to 56 in 2013; overall assaults, down from 243 in 2012 to 231 in 2013; and fraud/false pretenses, down from 34 in 2012 to 19 in 2013. There was one kidnapping/abduction in 2013, compared to four in 2011 and five in 2012.

Some categories that saw increases include weapon law violations, up from 13 offenses in 2012 to 18 in 2013, "all other" larcenies, up from 114 in 2012 to 142 in 2013, and burglary/breaking and entering, up from 150 in 2012 to 154 in 2013. There were two murders in 2013, compared to none the previous two years. There were eight rape offenses during each of the past three years.

Crime reports from police include both cases that have been solved and those that have not been solved, according to Martellini.