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Police Chief Hawkins: Homicides, crime rate continue to rise in Fayetteville

Department is making strides in filling its ranks with recruitment


The number of homicides and the overall crime rate have continued to climb over the past six months, according to police statistics presented Monday night to the Fayetteville City Council.

From January through June, 24 homicides were reported, statistics show. Aggravated assault reports rose by 14%, from 538 cases last year to 619 as of June.

Meanwhile, the number of rape cases declined by nearly 33%, from 50 in 2021 to 36 at the midyear point of 2022.

“I believe that being able to have consistent year after year a decrease in crime is a very difficult task to do. You can’t always be doing the same thing. You always have to be innovative; you always have to look at new ways,” Police Chief Gina Hawkins said after the meeting.

“We’re bringing in technology, we’re having the community have input to get more engagement,” Hawkins said. “We’ve had successes over and over. And at the same time, our successes have been with more population, more annexation, more business that we don’t even take into account when comparing activity to criminal activity. I’m proud because we step up, and we still adjust.

“Now, although we’re up this year,” Hawkins continued, “we still don’t give up on trying to lower our crime and think of how we can be more innovative. That’s why I really believe the technology strategies as well as our community safety initiative — getting the community more engaged — is going to make a difference and provide more partnerships so that we can focus on different initiatives.”

Making the presentation to the City Council were Hawkins, Assistant Police Chiefs Kemberle Braeden and James Nolette, and Capt. Todd Joyce.

The city’s overall crime rate has declined over a span of the past six years, from 2016 to 2021, according to Joyce. That was more than 4,600 incidents, decreasing each year. That, he pointed out, was “a relative percentage decrease of almost 27.3%.”

Through those years, he said, the Police Department has been able to make adjustments through technology, new strategies and working with public safety initiatives to deter violent crime.

Braeden said the city’s property crimes include motor vehicle theft, breaking and entering theft, and larcenies.

“So, if you look, it shows an increase in both categories — for persons crimes and property crimes at the end of the second quarter of this year,” he said. “Additionally, you’ll see that citywide arrests for felony and misdemeanor events are actually up.”

Based on the police statistics:

– A total of 2,160 personal crimes have been reported over the first six months of this year, up 7% from 2,013 in 2021.

– Property crime has increased by about 20%, from 5,045 cases last year to 6,141 in 2022.

– Felonies are up 23%, with 782 arrests this year. That compares with 620 a year ago.

– Misdemeanor arrests rose 17.7%, from 1,305 last year to 1,559 in 2022.

“We need to continue to investigate domestic (violent) assaults, as they continue to rise,” Braeden said.

Domestic assault reports are up nearly 17%, statistics indicate.

Motor vehicle thefts also pose a problem, with the Monday report showing an increase of 36% over the past six months.

On another topic, Nollette said the Police Department has “made great strides” in recruiting.

Overall, the department, as of June 30, was down 70 employees, he said. That includes 32 full- and part-time sworn employees and an additional 38 full- and part-time civilian employees.

“So, as it relates to police staffing, we currently have 40 individuals going through two separate academies that started one month apart from one another,” Nollette said. “Both are being held here at the Fayetteville Police Department at the training center. It’s taxing on our staff and our officers, but we understand the need.”

Those include nine people hired from Puerto Rico.

“We thought outside the box and went to Puerto Rico to recruit some personnel from down there," Nolette said. “We brought in nine individuals who have some experience in law enforcement. We actually even recruited a telecommunicator, so we have someone working in communications, as well.”

Councilman D.J. Haire asked Hawkins for the overall number of officers currently employed by the department. He read from a document that said 403.

“Our actual number at full capacity, what should that number be?” Haire asked.

Hawkins said it should be 431.

“So, we’re not far off,” Haire said.

“We don’t slow down, either,” Hawkins said.

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Fayetteville, crime, City Council, Police Department