Crime in Suffolk County dropped dramatically in the first quarter of 2018, with shootings down by nearly half and other violent crime declining by almost a fifth, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
And Suffolk police also appear to be gaining ground in the nationwide opioid crisis, with new data showing a steep drop in overdose deaths countywide, according to crime statistics that compared the first three months of 2018 with the same period in 2017.
Acting Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron attributed the reductions to a more focused “intelligence-led policing model,” which allows law enforcement to better map crime trends and locations.
“We are able to track burglary trends by the time of the day and location,” Cameron said. “It’s been very effective.”
Violent crime, which includes homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, fell to 245 in the first three months of 2018 from 302 in 2017 — a decline of 18.9 percent, Cameron said.
Rape had the biggest decline, more than 66 percent, while aggravated assaults dipped 28 percent, officials said. But robberies increased 14 percent and homicides rose to 5 this year — a number that includes two cold cases in which the murders occurred years earlier — from 3 last year, Cameron said.
Authorities said shootings declined by 47 percent — with nine people killed or wounded by gunfire, compared with 17 for the first quarter of 2017. Property crimes, including burglary, larceny and motor vehicle thefts, were down 10.3 percent for the quarter.
Opioid deaths and nonfatal overdoses are also on the decline in 2018, Cameron said.
Drug-related fatalities fell to 64 in the first quarter of 2018, from 97 in 2017, including 80 percent fewer people dying from heroin. Total drug-related overdoses dropped 42 percent for the period, Cameron said.
Cameron credited a beefed-up Narcotics unit, Suffolk’s partnership with Nassau on a bicounty overdose prevention task force and increased county representation on a Drug Enforcement Agency Task Force.
Narcotics-related search warrants increased almost 25 percent in 2018 as the department now allows Special Operations unit officers to execute warrants. The move, officials said, led to the seizure of 43 guns and the arrest of 155 suspects.
Drug seizures also increased dramatically in 2018. Law enforcement seized 871 grams of heroin — a 189 percent hike from 2017 — and 3,732 grams of cocaine — a 742 percent increase, officials said.
Some crime reduction strategies are less obvious.
For example, fewer officers are responding to residential alarms after county lawmakers passed legislation punishing homeowners for multiple false alarms, Cameron said. Residents can also file minor police reports over the phone for incidents such as a smashed mailbox or a broken car window that are needed to generate insurance reports.
With more free time at their disposal, Cameron said the department has made a renewed traffic enforcement push.
The department reported a 25-percent decrease in fatal motor vehicle crashes; an 11.1-percent reduction in accidents that resulted in injury and an 8.7 percent increase in traffic summonses in the first quarter of 2018, Cameron said.
The department, which hired 175 new officers in 2016 and another 170 in 2017, is also seeing a decline in police overtime. Total police overtime was $14.3 million for the first three months of 2018, compared with $17.2 million the same period last year.
“The hard work of the men and women of the Suffolk County Police Department has led to the lowest levels of crime in recorded history,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in a statement. “Not only does this reaffirm that our crime-fighting strategies are working, we are doing this in the most cost effective way possible.”
With John Valenti