STATESVILLE, N.C. - A city that once had crime rates well above the national average is seeing a dramatic turnaround.
Eyewitness News anchor Brittney Johnson spoke one-on-one with Statesville's new police chief and learned about the new strategies officers are using to clear out violent criminals for good.
"I think people are just treating each other differently," said new Statesville Chief David Addison.
Addison has been in office since February of this year. He said Statesville's on the mend.
"I think it’s gonna take a while for us to overcome that type of stereotype but Statesville is not a violent city," he said.
The chief doesn't want to jinx the city, but he's grateful and relieved to see fewer people becoming victims of crime.
Channel 9 requested new crime data and learned the city saw 65 violent crimes from January through April this year. During the same time period last year, there were 94 violent crimes.
The new numbers mean the city is on track to see a nearly 20 percent drop in overall violent crime. It saw a 25 percent decrease from 2017 to 2018, and there has not been a murder in Statesville since January of 2018, roughly a year and a half ago.
The chief credits his officers for strengthening community relationships and encouraging positive conflict resolution.
"You can’t teach people how to be decent to one another so understanding you can't solve everything with a firearm, you can’t solve everything with a knife or with an assault, that’s important," said Addison.
The city is also partnering with the federal government for project safe neighborhoods. Officers work to identify repeat violent offenders and charge them with federal crimes, keeping them off the streets longer.
"And giving us a chance to heal that community," Addison said.
To prevent new criminals from taking their places, officers are developing programs to help with jobs and homelessness and to learn the root problems leading people to crime.
Addison described the type of dialogue they're hoping to create with people who are arrested or known to commit crimes.
"Hey, let me talk to you for second, you've been doing this for a while, why?" he said. "If I say, 'I’m doing it because I can’t find anything to eat or I don’t have a place to stay, let me see if I can get you somewhere I can help you.'"
The chief feels the department is making good progress even though they’re down 10 officers. He’s raising pay for new recruits to attract more officers, hoping to get them on the street soon.
Statesville police are also building relationships with kids and teens. For the second year they're partnering with Cochran Church for a summer camp. They'll host activities and provide meals for 50 kids.
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