Despite concerns about a recent pattern of shootings, crime statistics released by the Mobile Police Department last week indicated a reduction in almost all reported violent crimes in 2018.
In its most recent annual report, MPD showed fewer homicides, robberies, assaults, burglaries, incidents of larceny and car thefts in 2018 than were reported the year before. The only statistical increase was the number of reported rapes, which jumped up to 168 from 141 in 2017.
Notably, the 2017 homicide rate was almost cut in half last year — dropping from 50 to 28 and ending a two-year trend of increasing murders in Mobile. Of those killings that did occur, only four remain unsolved, which led to an 86 percent clearance rate for MPD’s Homicide Unit.
Nine of the 28 homicides reported in 2018 were domestic related, six stemmed from altercations between two individuals, and the vast majority of victims were killed by gunfire.
Speaking on the 2018 report, which was published April 12, Police Chief Lawrence Battiste said he was happy to report crime in Mobile is “trending down.”
“While I know that doesn’t make those victims of crime feel any better, it should provide hope that we are showing progress [toward] a safer community,” Battiste wrote.
There were a number of factors Battiste attributed to the MPD’s success last year, including the use of improved technology and data-driven police tactics that allowed precinct commanders to “shift resources when they recognize developing crime trends.”
He also said partnerships with state and federal agencies have helped make an impact on how MPD identifies, investigates and prosecutes offenders, especially with regard to repeat offenders and those who are caught using a firearm while trafficking narcotics in Mobile.
“Real time crime meetings held weekly proved beneficial for more effective crime analysis. In these meetings, precinct commanders identify problem areas and discuss strategies they will take to alter crime trends and patterns. This leads to the adjustment of resources precinct by precinct,” Battiste said. “Additionally, there is a weekly collaboration with local, state and federal partners to maximize the prosecution and sentencing of offenders.”
By the numbers, the annual report is one of the better ones MPD has seen over the past three years. That said, if current crime trends continue, 2019 is on pace to surpass the number of murders reported in Mobile last year.
According to MPD, 15 homicides have occurred in 2019 so far, and the release of the 2018 crime statistics comes amid an ongoing discussion about the prevalence of gun violence in Mobile.
In addition to the crime, MPD’s annual report also offers a rare bit of insight into how the department holds it own officers accountable through internal affairs investigations and its handling of citizen’s complaints against officers.
In 2018, internal affairs conducted 35 investigations involving 44 MPD employees, though the report doesn’t indicate whether those were officers or civilians. The investigations included probes of five officer-involved shootings and one case stemming from a citizen’s complaint.
At least six MPD officers resigned or retired while under investigation by internal affairs and two more were terminated under similar circumstances in 2018. MPD has yet to respond to inquiries about the identity of the 44 officers who were investigated.
It is known that Michael Walley was one of the two officers terminated, though. Last February, MPD announced Walley’s termination after he was arrested on two counts of willful abuse of a child. Walley pleaded guilty in November and was sentenced to two years of probation.
According to MPD, 105 citizen complaints were received throughout 2018, which the department categorized into 10 “areas of concern.” The areas that received the most complaints were MPD’s procedures and demeanor, resulting in 33 and 29 complaints, respectively.
Overall, MPD found nearly half of all complaints against officers to be unfounded, while only 17 were deemed to involve “improper conduct.” Of nine “use of force” complaints, all were deemed to be unfounded or the result of “proper conduct” by the involved officer.
The full MPD report is available for review at lagniappemobile.com and mobilepd.org.
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