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December 13, 2012

Making the city safer

Mayor, police chief credit 'proactive' approach to law enforcement

LAWRENCE — With the end of 2012 coming to a close, Mayor William Lantigua and Police Chief John Romero are declaring the city appears to be winning the battle against crime.

“We’re seeing a safer city. We’ve turned the corner,” Romero said as he joined the mayor in his third-floor office at City Hall to announce a 19 percent reduction in crime overall during the first nine months of the year.

This included what the mayor called “a momentous” 83 percent drop in homicides, with one murder in the city through the end of September compared to six murders a year ago. There was a second murder Nov. 4 when a Lowell teenager was gunned down outside a house party.

The city also experienced a major drop in auto theft (40 percent), robbery (26 percent) and burglary (14 percent), according to statistics compiled by John Reynolds, director of the Police Department’s crime data analysis unit.

Romero and Lantigua both cited the reactivation of the department’s Special Operations Division as the key reason for the positive crime trends. During the first eight months since being re-established on April 10, the 13-officer-unit headed Capt. Roy Vasque has made 807 arrests — including 690 for drug offenses.

“The department recognizes that drugs fuel most of the crimes in the city — the car break-ins, the burglaries, the violent crimes, the homicides — it’s all based on drugs,” Romero said Wednesday.

“If you impact on the drug problem, you’re going to impact on crime across the board. Those numbers reflect it,” he said.

The Special Operations Unit seized $145,000 in U.S. currency, 17 firearms, 1,465 grams of heroin and more than 1,000 grams of cocaine and crack cocaine as a result of its daily focus on the city’s illegal drug trade.

“In my opinion, one of the reasons why crime is down in general is because of the heavy hit on the drug dealing business,” the mayor said.

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