PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Violent crime in Rhode Island’s capital city was nearly slashed in half between 1991 and 2012, mirroring a national trend that saw a significant reduction in the number of homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults over the last two decades.
A WPRI.com review of Uniform Crime Reports published by the FBI shows Providence reported 2,049 violent crimes in 1991, the year Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. began his second go-around in City Hall. By 2012, current Mayor Angel Taveras’s second year in office, the city reported 1,133 violent crimes, a 45% swing.
While Providence’s FBI report for 2013 won’t be available until later this year, city officials have reported that violent crime remained nearly level last year. A weekly crime statistics report published by the Providence Police Department shows that violent crime in 2014 was down 26% as of July 6.
So why is crime down? No one really knows. Experts have attributed the national drop – violent crime was down 37% between 1991 and 2012 – to everything from policing strategies to the economy, but nothing quite adds up.
In Providence’s case, the city has had three mayors (four counting John Lombardi’s brief stint as acting mayor) as well as various police chiefs and public safety commissioners and crime has fallen pretty consistently. The city’s 5.6% unemployment rate in 2000 was its lowest at any point in the last 20 years, but the violent crime rate that year was nearly identical to 2012, when the jobless rate was 12.2%
Despite the improvements, violence remains a concern for many Providence residents.
On July 8, three women and two men were shot and several vehicles were hit with a barrage of gunfire near Chad Brown housing project in the city’s North End. Days later, police said they recovered more than 30 shell casings near Georgia Avenue and Carolina Avenue following a report of shots fired. Just before midnight on July 11, two men were shot on Forsyth Street.
Last week’s shootings came little more than a year after 12-year-old Aynis Vargas was shot and killed at a graduation party in the Hartford Park housing project. Five men were charged in the murder. Two are serving life in prison.
The latest stretch of violence has prompted community leaders to call for city and state officials to help reduce crime and offer more jobs and recreational programs. With Taveras running for governor, the candidates vying to replace him as mayor have also pledged to grow the city’s depleted police force and increase community engagement.