Police in Springfield responded to four more homicides in 2018 than it did in the previous year, but overall statistics from the division shows a drop in crime.
The overall numbers tallied by the division shows an 11.5 percent decrease in violent crime and a 20 percent decrease in property crime.
Murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults are considered violent crimes by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and burglaries, larceny and motor vehicle theft are considered property crimes.
“It’s significant and this is a good thing for our community,” Springfield Police Chief Lee Graf said. “It has a quieting effect on our streets. That would be the best part of it. Anytime we see a drop it’s a good thing.”
While the homicide rate is up 44 percent (from nine slayings in 2017 compared to 13 in 2018), many of the killings took place in the first half of last year. Springfield police have investigated two homicides since August.
Graf said one major reason behind the decrease in crime is the work done by the Safe Street Task Force which first deployed last year during the summer months. Springfield voters approved a levy in 2017 that created the unit tasked with tackling quality of life issues and preventing violent crime.
Springfield community leaders said the drop in crime is welcomed.
“My hope would be that we continue to see a decrease in all of the categories,” NAACP Springfield President Denise Williams said. “It has been fairly quiet and peaceful in our community, but I hope we can continue to build and become one community.”
Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said the numbers show tactics that the Springfield police are doing are working.
However, all three cautioned the homicide rate is too high and they hope to see that statistic fall this year.
Law enforcement officers haven’t investigated a killing so far this year, but, violent crimes have been reported in the city including a brutal case last week where a woman was allegedly stabbed in the face with a box cutter and a robbery where a man was reportedly beaten and his wallet stolen.
The Springfield Police Division investigated 326 violent crimes in 2018, according to the statistics. In 2017, the division investigated 369.
It’s the second year in a row violent crime has fallen. In 2016, Springfield police investigated 411 cases of violent crime, according to the stats.
Property crime has dropped over the two year period also. In 2016, police investigated 4,050 cases of property crime. In 2017, there were 4,014 cases investigated and in 2018, only 3,203 cases were reported to police, according to the stats.
It’s tough to figure out why the numbers have dropped over the last couple years, Graf said.
“There are so many different things that weigh in on why any of these things — like property crime — is down,” Graf said. “Some of it is the economy, you have the people who kind of commit crime on the margins. But they would prefer to have a nine to fiver but they may do some of the property crime like theft out of people’s yards and shoplifting.”
Graf said another reason he believes crime is dropping is more residents are lawfully carrying weapons.
“It’s a much more risky proposition to go out and try to use force on someone because you don’t know what they might have or what they might do,” Graf said. “Same thing with burglary, when you go into someone’s home. That’s always been there: the potential for them to defend themselves.”
The biggest crime prevention measure are well-informed citizens who are diligent, Graf said.
“Citizens are doing a lot for themselves today,” Graf said. “Putting cameras up on their property. They solve crimes and they prevent a lot of crimes.”
At the end of the day, the police can’t be everywhere at all times, Graf said, but residents can help each other by keeping a lookout and calling when something is suspicious can prevent further crime.
“Some of the most peaceful communities are the communities that are watching out for themselves and each other and they are keeping an eye on what is going on outside their houses,” Graf said.
2018 Springfield homicides
Homicides remained high in 2018, but there was a downward trend later in the year.
Travis Hypes was convicted last year in the March 5 murder of Lindsey Marsh, a pregnant woman.
Eric Sirons is accused of killing Jennifer Sirons and Andrea Heiser and then killing himself on May 15.
Also, A Clark County Grand Jury found Raekwon Hall acted in self defense when he shot and killed 23-year-old Antonio Moore on Sept. 16.
However, no one else has been arrested or blamed for the nine other homicides that took place in Springfield in 2018. Graf said the division is diligently working to solve all the cases and progress has been made to bring justice to the victim’s and their families.
“It carries with you every day,” Graf said. “These cases are of the utmost importance to the families and are just as important to the investigators. I can assure you the detectives and I don’t like this either. If I could make this all go away I would. It affects us all.”
Graf said his detectives work every day to solve each case.
“They continue to follow up on leads and interview witnesses,” Graf said. “They talk to witnesses they talked to before to see if anything new comes up. We are constantly looking for forensics and testing and as soon as those tests come back we are following up. I can go back on any given time and ask for updates and there is always, even weekly, something new they are working on as an angle trying to solve these investigations.”
Graf said his division has made progress in many cases, but will not move forward until they are sure they can get a conviction. Community support and witnesses willing to come forward plays a big role in making sure these families get justice, Graf said.
“People coming forward who can point across a courtroom and say ‘I saw that person do this. I was in the room when they told this person what they did.’ That’s the most powerful evidence beyond almost anything else,” Graf said. “That is a problem, getting people to come forward. A lot of these interviews and meetings are trying to get people to give us that extra link to solve some of these crimes.”
Anyone with information on the homicides or any other crime is asked to call the police division at 937-324-7680.
Safe Street Task Force
A unit created by the Springfield Police Division, and with the help of Springfield taxpayers, received a lot of credit for the recent statistics.
Five patrol officers and a sergeant make up the Safe Street Task Force. Their job is to focus on getting drugs and guns off the street. Graf said many times drugs and illegal guns can be a contributing factor for violent crime.
“Their whole 8 hour day consists of trying to tackle quality of life issues, sometimes it’s simple like speeding but they also look at some of the more serious things. Drug activity, illegal drug houses, violent crime, and violent criminals causing these issues in the community,” the chief said.
It’s impossible to know how many crimes the task force — and the rest of the Springfield Police Divison — prevented, but word on the street last year was the task force had turned heads, Graf said.
“Some of the people who would normally carry a gun illegally in their vehicles were hesitant to do that and leaving them at home because they were worried they might get stopped by the task force and get arrested on gun charges,” Graf said. “Whether that took away their capabilities that night to get involved in one of those crimes of passion, or crimes related to some of their illegal activities, a grudge or business rival, or just animosity, we hope that they have that effect.
Primary uniform patrol officers are also looking for illegal drugs and guns during their shift, Graf said, but the major difference between them and the task force is that when a patrol officer gets a call they must drop what they are doing and go to the scene. The task force has the ability to stay on the issues and complete them without distraction.
Clark County Prosecutor Dan Driscoll said the task force has made an impact.
“I am a huge fan of Safe Street Task Force,” he said. “They did a great job this summer and we look forward to seeing what they do this summer.”