GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport police released a study that shows a dramatic drop in violent crimes.
The Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) analyzed Gulfport's crime stats for the first six months of 2009. Inside the 20 page document is data collected from every report submitted by Gulfport police.
The violent crime section focuses on murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Based on the data collected from January through June, just 73 murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults were investigated by authorities. Last year during the same six month window, the number of violent crime reported to police was 125. That means violent crime in Gulfport is down 43 percent.
According to the UCR report, just two murders have been reported in Gulfport since 2009 started. During the same period of time a year ago, six people had been killed. Robberies are down from 65 last year to 39 this year. Aggravated assaults dropped from 46 to 20.
Gulfport Police Chief Alan Weatherford said the crime stats are an indication that his department's philosophy is working.
"I'm a firm believer that police presence makes a difference. Police presence reduces crime."
Gulfport police have weekly meetings to analyze crime trends and determine where officers should be positioned. Assistant Chief Leonard Papania believes those meetings have resulted in safer streets, and consequently, the lower violent crime numbers.
"The proof is in the pudding for us," Papania said. "Having police in the right place at the right time discourages crime."
The proactive approach includes weekly trips out into the community, where officers get to meet and know their neighbors.
"Our officers, our citizens, everything we're doing makes a difference," said Weatherford.
The only violent crime that's gone up in 2009 is rape. The dozen rape cases in 2009 are two more than in the first half of 2008.
Domestic violence is the only other crime category in Gulfport's semi-annual report that showed an upward spike. The 455 domestic calls reported to police this year are 18 more than a year ago.
Simple assault (-2%), burglary (-4%), larceny (-19%), auto theft (-36%), and traffic crashes (-3%) all experienced drops compared to 2008.
Despite the decreases reported in the study, Gulfport police officers remain very busy. Between January and June, the report said they were dispatched to 86,073 calls for service. That's a 14% jump over the first half of 2008.