Scott Ball / Rivard Report
The San Antonio Police Department stated Thursday that the city's violent crime rate decreased by 6 percent over the last year, a figure that included a 16 percent drop in homicides.
SAPD Chief William McManus attributed the decrease to the work of the violent crime task force, which launched in 2016 and continues to operate.
McManus said that preliminary FBI Uniform Crime Reports for 2017 showed 125 homicides in 2017, 24 fewer than in 2016. He said that as of Dec. 22, the violent crimes task force led to the arrests of 5,486 people and 582 gang members, and oversaw the execution of 2,240 felony arrest warrants.
Homicides in the city spiked in 2016 to the highest total since 1995, and an increase in other violent crimes led to the formation of the violent crime task force.
Although the reports indicate homicides decreased since 2016, the homicide rate in San Antonio has remained relatively static compared to the rate of aggravated assault since 2014, according to the city's Uniform Crime Report statistics.
Uniform Crime Report statistics are reported to the FBI, which confirms the reported numbers before they are made publicly accessible on SAPD's website. The FBI has not yet confirmed SAPD's reported numbers, which will be available by mid-January, according to Romana Lopez, a spokesperson for SAPD. UCR statistics are currently available up to October 2017.
"The men and the women of the San Antonio Police Department made this happen," McManus said.
The task force also is made up of federal and state law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Texas Department of Public Safety, the Bexar County District Attorney's Office, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The types of crimes included in the category of violent crime are murder, robbery, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, vehicle theft, larceny theft, and arson.
McManus also said there was a 58 percent decrease in gang-related murders, a 46 percent decrease in narcotics-related murders, and 73 percent decrease in murders in which both gangs and narcotics are involved. He said that since its formation the task force has seized 870 firearms, which he described as "high-tech weapons," and recovered more than 300,000 grams of drugs and $1.2 million in suspected proceeds of crime.
At the press conference announcing the statistics, McManus said a high number of arrests played a role in reducing the number of violent crimes committed throughout the city.
"[There was] a lot of discussion internally about whether or not an increase in arrests and increase in targeted, intelligence-driven policing would have an impact on crime at the end of the year," McManus said. "Quite frankly, I had my doubts that it would, but I was proven wrong."
He went on to say that high-risk behavior leads people to perpetrate and also become victims of violent crime.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg stood behind McManus as he reported the statistics. Nirenberg said the city was committed to becoming the safest big city in the country.
"The numbers show encouraging progress," Nirenberg said. "The progress doesn't mean our job is done. Crime remains a big challenge and we will remain vigilant."