DANVILLE, Va. – As law enforcement nationwide sees a dramatic rise in violent crime, a local police department is seeing the opposite.
Over the last three years, crime in Danville has dropped more than 50%. However, it wasn’t an easy task getting to that point.
Scott Booth had his hands full when he came to Danville as the police chief in 2018. Through his vision, the entire department was revamped a year later.
“As we’ve seen over the last few years in policing, it’s become more important than ever for us to really find creative ways to address issues in our community,” Chief Booth says.
Little did he know, the department would be solving 35% more crimes than the national average by 2022. Violent crime dropped by 51% in the community.
“That’s 407 less violent crimes per year in our community,” Professional Standards Capt. Steve Richardson says. “That’s more than one a day less.”
For the second year, officers solved specifically homicides with a 100% success rate. Since 2019, they have solved 26 of 29 homicides. During that time, they also solved seven cold cases.
“We began instead of focusing on communities, areas, streets or neighborhoods and started focusing on the individuals who are committing the crimes,” Investigations Capt. David Whitley says.
Burglaries, robberies and property crimes are the lowest they’ve been in 35 years. Aggravated assaults are being solved at 81%, which is the highest rate in history.
Police say Danville’s model of crime reduction and accountability is working because of the leaps and bounds they’ve made in community engagement.
“What has changed is the way that we address those spikes,” Investigations Capt. David Whitley says. “We don’t wait until the end of the year, we don’t wait until the end of the month.”
Police are taking up new training models for things like de-escalation tactics. They’ve started several projects to get out in the community like the Youth Police Academy, Pass the Perspectives and Heal and Engage after Recent Trauma to name a few.
“Crime goes up, crime goes down,” Chief Booth adds. “If we’re doing the right things, community support stays with us.”
Danville police hope their model will serve as an example for departments in the Commonwealth and around the nation.