FBI: Providence saw slight uptick in crime in 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The number of violent crimes reported to Providence police ticked up slightly in 2016, but not at the same pace that homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults have grown throughout the country.

Crime statistics released by the FBI on Monday show violent crime in the United States rose 4.1% in 2016, while it grew about 2% in Rhode Island’s capital city. All told, there were 1,031 reported violent crimes in Providence in 2016.

The marginal increase marked the second consecutive year violent crime grew in Providence after the city posted its safest year on record in 2014. Last year’s reported violent crimes were still down 50% compared to 1991, the city’s most violent year.

Reported violent crimes also increased in four of New England’s eight largest cities, growing by 19% in Stamford, 11% in Bridgeport, 2% in Boston and 1% in Worcester. Violent crime fell 8% in Hartford and 4% in Springfield. In New Haven, violent crime fell 12% between 2014 and 2016. (The FBI didn’t release 2015 data for that city.)

Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements told Eyewitness News that violent crimes were relatively flat the last two years, after they “fell off the table” in 2014. He said partnerships are the key to the city’s success.

“I think what we’re doing very is really tapping into our partners, both on the law enforcement side and the community,” Clements said.

Clements singled out the department’s violent crime task force, which played a significant role in helping the city seize 171 guns in 2016.

“They have an incredible job of filtering all information about young men and groups of young men who are prone to carrying and using guns,” he said.

The FBI has been publishing local agency crime statistics since 1985, collecting data from 18,481 city, county, college, state, tribal, and federal agencies throughout the country. Public safety departments submit their annual crime statistics to the FBI, which then audits the figures and releases the totals as part of its annual “Crime in the United States” report.

The FBI defines violent crimes as homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults. Burglaries, larcenies, motor vehicle thefts and arson cases are considered property crimes.

Experts say the FBI report is not an exact measurement of local crime because local agencies often reclassify incidents during the year. Clements noted that the FBI reported the city had 10 homicides in 2016, but it actually ended up with 11.

On the property crime side, a spokesperson for the FBI told Eyewitness News the agency didn’t release Providence’s total because it didn’t receive a total number of motor vehicle thefts from the city. Lindsay Lague, a spokesperson for Providence police, said the city had 6,279 reported property crimes in 2016, which would be a 4% increase.

Property crimes also grew by 10% in Stamford and 5% in Hartford, the FBI data shows. Boston’s 10% drop in property crimes was the largest reduction of New England’s largest cities.

Crime in Providence appears to be trending in the right direction in 2017. While the FBI won’t release its report for the current year until next September, city records show violent crime was down 7% compared with the same point last year as of Sept. 17. Property crime was down 6%.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan