, Salem, MA

April 1, 2013

Crime dropped 10 percent in Peabody

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — With his tenure as Peabody police chief winding down, Robert Champagne has offered the city an annual report showing a continued drop in crime in 2012.

Total crime decreased 10 percent, with 2,700 “reportable crimes,” according to the document sent to the City Council. Since 2011, violent crime decreased 3 percent and property crime dropped 11 percent.

Champagne attributed the improvements to “increased presence of officers in businesses and neighborhoods and the use of technology to meet our demands for service.”

The report reflects a reliance on computerized models to analyze crime and accidents from multiple angles, to give police clues as to where problems are likely to happen. As a result, the department deploys officers “to prevent crime before it occurs,” according to the report.

The report charts a 14 percent overall crime drop since 2009.

“They’re patrolling a lot more,” said Mike Garabedian, chairman of the council’s public safety subcommittee. “And I really believe it is making a difference. In West Peabody, it has. I see them all the time there.”

A big increase was reported in drug overdoses — up 65 percent. But Deputy Chief Scott Carriere attributes much of that to a record-keeping issue. A lot of the incidents listed as overdoses were actually suicides or suicide attempts, he said — not accidental overdoses resulting from illegal drug use.

That said, however, he notes that “there definitely is an increase in the availability of opiates,” and illegal drug use remains a serious problem.

The report notes nearly 84,000 calls for service, including 15,523 that came via the emergency 911 line. Compared to 2011, the number of calls dropped by 13 percent. Most of the dispatch calls were for medical assistance, from nosebleeds to cardiac arrest.

While more than 2,000 burglar alarms went off — that’s about six a day — 96 percent of these were false alarms. Roughly 1,500 “disturbances” were reported, from loud parties to loud music, and roughly the same number of traffic accidents, with a third of those minor. Nearly 300 people reported injuries as result of vehicular accidents.

There were almost 3,000 traffic stops and just over 100 arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The department’s electronic approach, Carriere said, is akin to that of former Boston, New York and Los Angeles police commissioner Bill Bratton, but adapted to the needs of a smaller city where crimes are more random. Champagne dubs the program “Safe City.”

Crime analysts work to place officers where they will be needed, Carriere said, and individual officers are expected to be alert to patterns. Recently, a series of relatively minor calls warned police of the presence of a motorcycle gang on Walnut Street.

“The calls led us to find out there was a bigger problem,” Carriere said. The gang has since departed, he said.

The number of cars stolen from the Northshore Mall was reduced to just one — “an unheard of number,” Carriere said.

If things sound better, the report also offers a sobering chart showing an assault every 36 hours, a robbery every 30 days, a burglary every two days, a theft every eight hours, a car stolen every seven days, vandalism every day, a crime every three hours and two arrests every 24 hours.

The report is detailed enough to compare the hours and the days that crimes occur — drivers are most often cited or arrested on Saturdays and Sundays — and compares the rate of crime in cities around the state and nation. Comparably sized Revere is doing worse than Peabody, 1,527 total crimes verses 1,475, but Plymouth is doing better with 984.

A chart shows where the most accidents happened in the past year. Beware Main and Washington streets in the downtown, with 19 accidents, and Goodale and Lowell streets, with 18. Pedestrians, meanwhile, fared worst on Route 114, getting involved in five accidents, as well as Lynnfield and Main, with four each.

Champagne notes that the department was reaccredited last July.

The department has 100 officers, 10 reserve police officers and 25 civilian employees. A citizen survey taken by the department includes even arrestees who speak favorably of their treatment, Carriere said. It rates police performance at 92 percent.