Data presented to Springfield City Council by Police Chief Paul Williams last night shows a diminishing number of crimes against persons in the city.
Even so, recent crimes have led to concerns about an uptick in violence, according to two community members who spoke at the meeting.
Williams shared data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System, administered by the FBI, showing that violence against persons declined by 36 cases, or less than 1%, through Sept. 30 this year compared with 2022.
Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter declined from 12 to 11 incidents, while negligent manslaughter held steady at five incidents.
Aggravated assault, which is assault using a weapon, declined 14.5% to 1,277 incidents, though simple assault, without a weapon, rose 14.1% to 2,627.
In other statistics reported, there were 17 fewer kidnapping cases from 41 last year, a 41.5% decline, while rape declined by 30 cases from 107, a 28% reduction.
Williams also pointed to a 16.5% reduction in crimes against property year over year for the same nine-month period. Among these types of crimes, theft from buildings declined by 19.8% to 570 incidents, and there were 608 fewer thefts from motor vehicles to 1,072, a 36.2% decrease year over year.
A third category, crimes against society, recorded an uptick of 1.8%, including a 2.4% increase in drug/narcotics violations and a 14.5% increase in drug equipment violations. Decreases were noted in some areas, including pornography, prostitution and weapon law violations.
In his remarks to council, Williams revisited a theme that has been constant in his crime reports, which is the prevalence of guns in the city. Even so, he noted reports of shots being fired in the city has declined in almost every month of this year. If the trend continues, he said 2023 will be lower than the last four or five years in the number of shots-fired incidents.
In a media scrum following his remarks to council, but prior to the public comment period in the council meeting, Williams noted the department is short-handed, with a current deficit of 60 officers.
“The community needs to step up and help us to prevent gun violence, and they can’t just depend on the police department to respond after the fact and pick up the shell casings and arrest the bad guys,” he said.
He added that in November, a number of violent incidents will impact the statistics. Among these were three fatal shootings in one week – Nov. 13, 14 and 18.
“As a community, we’re starting to address it, and I really want to see those numbers continue to go down,” he said. “I’d really like to see them be pre-2017 numbers, where we had half as many shots fired – half as many people shot as we do now.”
The state legislature approved the carrying of concealed firearms without a permit as of Jan. 1, 2017.
He said gun violence is higher than it was seven or eight years ago, and it absolutely affects people.
“But I’ll emphasize again, we don’t have the collateral damage and the random violence that some other cities do,” he said.
Speaking at the end of the council meeting were community activist Renee Goodwin and Springfield NAACP President Kai Sutton. Both referred to the recent outbreak of violence in the community and urged council to take action.
“If we don’t come together, this is only going to get worse,” Sutton said.
Goodwin said she had received many calls about gun violence in the past week.
“The community is very concerned about the uptick in violence,” she said. “It’s just ridiculous.”
Goodwin said she heard Williams report the declining crime figures but insisted more could be done to curb violence.
“If you all aren’t seeing what’s going on around us, we have a big problem,” she said.
Element Springfield South opened; Outlaw Gentlemen Barbershop added a second location; and wellness studio Stretch Zone launched.