GPD: Crime down, but still work to do

The concern now is among minority juveniles


Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 3:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 3:46 p.m.

The Gainesville Police Department took its show on the road once again to inform residents about crime reduction in the city and the programs it operates.

The town hall meeting held last Wednesday at the Senior Recreation Center on NW 34th Street began with GPD Lt. Will Halvosa talking about GPD's six-month report card, which covered January to June of this year.

"I do have some good news to report, and also, as you will tell, there is still a lot of work for us to accomplish," Halvosa said.

He said there was almost a 2-percent reduction in property crimes — auto theft, burglary, larceny and retail theft — from the first six months in 2013. He said of the 2,373 property crimes, 600 of them were reported as retail theft.

He said violent crimes, which include robberies, were down 19.5 percent, although there was a "spike in the last couple of weeks." He also said rape is down 22 percent, but added that although the reduction in some crime categories is good, GPD is working to grow the reductions even further.

"Again, and you will agree with me, one victim of a robbery or rape is one too many, so we definitely have a lot of work to do in these categories," said Halvosa, adding that overall, crime is down more than 5 percent in Gainesville from the first six months of last year.

Also during the forum, GPD Chief Tony Jones, who has been an advocate for crime prevention measures targeting juveniles throughout his more than 30-year career with GPD, talked specifically about how the Reichert House Youth Academy in southeast Gainesville has kept a lot of young men off the streets and in school.

He also mentioned how a $25,000 grant that GPD and other community stakeholders partnered to get will help figure out how to combat the disproportionate amount of contact minority juveniles have with the criminal justice system. The grant was awarded by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Children's Law and Policy's Racial and Ethnic Disparities Reduction Project.

"It is very important for us to do prevention and intervention services with juveniles," said Jones, as those attending the meeting broke into different groups midway through the meeting. "If a child has committed a crime, we don't want the child to continue committing crimes for the rest of their life. So, it is very important that we go and do intervention services that determine what caused the child to go out and commit the crime so we can kind of nip it in the bud at the source and then work with that child and mentor that child to make sure they have a successful transition into adulthood."

As he kept delving into the numbers on the report card, Halvosa said domestic violence charges make up 31 percent of all aggravated assault charges filed the first six months of this year. He said that number is too high, and added that GPD conducts good domestic violence investigations and follow-up and usually makes arrests in those cases.

"More importantly, we are dedicated to the eradication of domestic violence," Halvosa said. "We have two detectives assigned full time to domestic violence cases."

He said GPD also has a domestic violence advocate and a domestic violence life coach, Tracey Hickmon, who serves as the Rebuilding Community Outreach Coordinator with the Domestic Violence Unit.

Halvosa also highlighted the fact that half of the reported auto thefts are for automobiles and scooters, which he said are primarily being stolen by juveniles.

"That is sort of a gateway crime that we feel like leads to some other, more violent crimes, so we take scooter thefts very seriously," Halvosa said.

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