by Danny Wade
Humboldt often gets a bad rap as it relates to crime. Outsiders especially think Humboldt is haven for illegal activity.
Well, the simple truth is— crime is, and has been, on a steady down turn over the past few years, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reports. Arrests made in 2016 are down significantly from the past five years.
In light of two shootings and a homicide last week, 2017 is not off to a good start.
“I’m very sad to have two shootings and one lost life,” Humboldt Police Chief Rob Ellis said of last week’s turn of events. “It’s very disturbing when people out there have no regard for human life.”
But for 2016, Ellis said he is proud to see the numbers of arrests decreasing year after year.
“Humboldt has a tremendous amount of good people,” Chief Ellis said. “But unfortunately, like everyone else, we have those who want to cause trouble.”
Data from the TBI shows the number of total arrests (juvenile and adults) made over the past five years. In 2012 there were 618 total arrests made in Humboldt, 2013 had 585, 2014 saw 455 arrests, 2015 had 381 and 2016 was down to 247 arrests. That’s a 60-percent decrease in five years.
Crimes committed by adults show 2012 at 528, 2013 with 512, 2014 had 410, 2015 with 354 and 2016 had 229.
Juvenile arrests are down significantly, according to TBI reports. In 2012 there were 90 arrests, 2013 saw 73, 2014 had 45, 2015 with 27 and 2016 had only 18, which is a 500-percent decrease in five years.
So what is causing this decrease in arrests, especially for juveniles?
“Having a school resource officer has made a big difference at the high school,” Chief Ellis said. “Juvenile crime has decreased due to the Boys & Girls Club. I firmly believe these two are the reason we are seeing less juvenile arrests.”
As for arrests of adults, Chief Ellis attests that to several factors.
“The (West Tennessee Violent Crime and) Drug Task Force is curtailing drug activity, our gang unit is making a difference, having community involvement and prayer makes a difference,” Chief Ellis said.
One statistic Ellis was most proud of is Humboldt did not have any homicides in 2015 or 2016. Loss of any life, be it a criminal or officer or innocent bystander, is never good. Unfortunately that trend ended last week.
“We’ve got to stop this senseless killing,” Chief Ellis said after Humboldt saw it’s first homicide in over two years.
Ellis went over 2016’s TBI report, highlighting different types of arrests that show up frequently on the report. There were 26 DUI arrests made last year. The number one crime against people was simple assaults. The number one property crime was shoplifting. He added that Walmart reports a shoplifter almost every day.
Of crimes committed, Chief Ellis estimates 50-percent were drug related and less than 10-percent were gang related. That said, Ellis said Humboldt has gang activity. He also noted that every city in Gibson County has gang activity. “It’s not just a Humboldt thing,” he said.
Ellis says Gibson County and all of West Tennessee have three or four main gangs, then there are smaller spin-offs from those gangs.
Humboldt’s gang unit is taking a proactive approach to crime. Keeping up with gang activity has stopped crime before it happens, the chief said. The Special Response Team continues to train, be it active shooter training or hostage situations, Humboldt police are continuing their training on a regular basis.
Other proactive measures used by HPD focused more on keeping the public safe. These include “house watch” where citizens can call the police to let them know they will be away from home. It could be a day or two or it could be weeks. Police will keep an eye on their property.
Another service is escorting business personnel that are making bank deposits. Humboldt police on a daily basis will follow employees to the bank and some even request an escort back to the business if they are transporting sums of money to use in cash registers. Humboldt police provide these services absolutely free. Ellis asks anyone needing this service, please contact the police department.
One service many citizens may not know police provide is checking child restraint seats to assure they are properly installed. Chief Ellis said child seats are much more complex than earlier models as are the vehicles they go in. Anyone who has a car seat for their families should have HPD’s certified officer check them out.
Last year, the police department added a k-9 unit with a drug dog. This was a nice addition to curtailing crime.
Now, a new officer is in training at the academy that is bi-lingual, fluent in both English and Spanish. Laura Cano is expected to graduate in March and be on the force in a few weeks.
Chief Ellis said there have been times during arrests or emergencies, the department has used an interpreter by phone or police radio to communicate with non-English speaking people.
Chief Ellis said his department is always willing to assist traffic for funerals within the city. They average around 100 per year. They also provide traffic assistance for fundraisers such as 5k-10k runs, fundraisers and other such times.
“We ask the community to please continue to support us every way possible, to pray for us and our safety and in return we will serve and protect,” Ellis says the Humboldt citizens. “We will offer the best police services we can afford to put forth. We’ll keep our people in town safe.”