Despite rise in homicides, Huntsville Police report that overall crime is down.
FBI crime statistics released this week show overall crime in the Rocket City decreased for the first six months of 2013. Huntsville statistics for the entire year show crime dropped in most major categories, including a 14 percent decline in robbery, 12 percent drop in burglary, and a reported decrease in rape in 2013.
There was also a one percent drop in larceny, auto theft, and aggravated assault.
Huntsville Police Chief Lewis Morris said the statistics indicate the city remains one of the safest in Alabama and in the country.
"It also shows that our Community Watch and public safety programs are making a difference in the vigilance of our citizens," said Morris.
At a news conference Tuesday, Morris said there was a drop in property crimes and police worked to recover about 27 percent of stolen property and about 80 percent of stolen cars.
Morris said despite the drop in crime, the department still has work to do. Homicides were up last year, rising from 12 murders in 2012 to 25 in 2013. Huntsville Police have successfully solved and made arrests in 80 percent of the cases and attribute most of the homicides to street level drug crime.
Huntsville's murder rate is below other cities of the same size, but Chief Morris said one homicide is too many.
"The majority of the homicides are connected to a small network of known drug offenders, and we have been working to crack down on the dealers," said Morris.
He also reported a 24 percent increase in drug arrests last year. He said a related statistic is the 73 percent increase in assault on police officers.
"When you see an increase in officer assailts, in homicide, and then drug related arrests, you get a pretty clear picture of where you need to focus your efforts," said Morris. "Our drug task force is working on the root cause of the problem and that is the trafficker."
Citizens can help police by calling the HPD tip line with information on suspected crime, especially drug activity.
Investigators credit Huntsville's highly active Community Watch organizations with being the eyes and ears in their neighborhoods.
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