Darlington crime rates continue to drop

Police Badge City of Darlington

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

Crime statistics for 2015 indicate that major crimes in Darlington continue to decline, and that’s truly something to be thankful for this holiday season. City of Darlington Police Chief Danny Watson attributes the low crime rates to a combination of factors, including proactive officers, strong training, and deployment of modern equipment to enhance public safety and improve accountability.

“As we put a camera on every officer, put a TASER on every officer’s belt, and continue to improve tactics and technology, our police department gets better and better,” says Chief Watson.

The numbers seem to bear this out. Here are several major crime statistics charted over the course of a decade:

Rape: 2004 – 6, 2009 – 3, 2015 – 0
Aggravated Assault: 2004 – 59, 2009 – 48, 2015 – 28
Homicide: 2004 – 1, 2009 – 0, 2015 – 0
Robbery: 2004 – 17, 2009 – 15, 2015 – 4
Burglary: 2004 – 131, 2009 – 89, 2015 – 37
Larceny: 2004 – 220, 2009 – 188, 2015 – 171
Vehicle Theft: 2004 – 31, 2009 – 14, 2015 – 15
Arson: 2004 – 2, 2009 – 2, 2015 – 0
Theft From Vehicle: 2004 – 62, 2009 – 59, 2015 – 33

Another key statistic has also seen a major reduction in recent years – resisting arrest. In 2004, there were 29 resisting arrest charges, compared with only 8 in 2015. Watson attributes this drop to the presence of body cameras worn by Darlington Police Department officers and the use of Less Than Lethal weapon systems.

“These body camera systems have become a vital tool in protecting the truth. (The camera) has no opinion, it does not forget, it is simply what happened frame by frame,” Watson says, noting that DPD has been using body cameras since 2006, long before many other agencies recognized their potential benefits.

Chief Watson says traffic enforcement is a key component of DPD’s public safety mission, observing that unless a city’s streets are safe to drive, it’s hard to lure new residents or economic development to the area. He says Darlington’s burgeoning reputation as a speed trap is short-sighted, and notes that active patrols and traffic stops stops do more than generate ticket revenue, they discourage unsafe drivers and give pause to criminals.

“They say that if you go to Darlington you’re going to get a ticket, but that’s not true unless you are speeding, not wearing your seatbelt, if you run a stop sign or stoplight, merge into traffic and don’t yield right of way – those are all violations that people will get stopped for,” Watson says. “The purpose is two-fold: one – we are enhancing motorist safety, and two – the more we interdict minor crimes, the more major crimes we prevent.”

Additionally, Watson says the obvious upside to rigorous traffic enforcement is the dramatic reduction in auto collisions in Darlington over the past decade.

“No one likes getting a ticket – no one. However, back when we started our traffic enforcement program around 2003, in the City of Darlington we had 500 traffic collisions a year. That’s 500 in a town of just over 6,000 people. Now we have on average about 150. That is success,” says Watson.

Author: Duane Childers

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