"We're moving in the right direction."
That was the key piece of information Norristown Police Chief Russell Bono stressed Tuesday night as he presented his department's 2012 annual report, which includes a breakdown and explanation of the department structure and crime statistics covering several years.
According to Chief Bono, crime has dropped in the following key categories:
- Homicides are down 20 percent
- Rapes are down 17 percent
- Robberies are down 12 percent
- Assaults are down 14 percent
- Thefts are down 4.5 percent
- Motor vehicle thefts are down 16 percent
Chief Bono noted that, unfortunately, arsons increased by 120 percent last year while burglaries were on the rise by 18 percent.
The report also details that clearance rates (the number of crimes solved) for Norristown are better than state averages in most categories.
Chief Bono pointed out that these numbers belie Norristown's reputation as a "Wild, Wild West town."
"I think if you look at the numbers, if you look at the last five years, that perception is not reality," Bono said. "We have our problems. I'm not going to stand up her today and paint a perfectly rosy picture for anyone. It would be disingenuous if I did. But we are moving in the right direction."
Chief Bono suggested that one way to improve these numbers further would be to hire more officers.
"More manpower is certainly one of my goals," he said. "It always has been. I think with an increase in officers, we could continue to put a dent in [these numbers.]"
Norristown residents, the chief suggested, should feel more positive about their community. He noted that Norristown is a large community of mostly hard working, middle-class, law-abiding citizens.
"I would venture to say that less than a hundred of those people are causing the majority of these crimes," said Chief Bono. "We know who [most of] these people are we're making every lawful attempt we can to pressure them to change their criminal ways. These are the people who are giving Norristown its bad reputation."
"We have to identify these hundred people," he continued "And we have to stay on them. We have to either get them to change their ways, lock them up or run them out of town. That's what it's going to take."
Chief Bono noted at the beginning of his presentation that the progress made by his department in these areas was made through the hard work of the men and women who serve and protect everyday. He ended the night on a similarly positive note.
"I think you can be proud of your police department," he said. "And I think you should be proud of your town."
Download the Norristown Police Department's full 2012 Annual Report in our PDF section.