- Associated Press - Sunday, January 15, 2017

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - The homicide rate in Savannah fell in 2016 for the first time since 2012, Savannah-Chatham police reported.

There were 50 victims of homicides last year in the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department’s jurisdiction, compared to 53 in 2015, authorities said.

Homicides were a continuing concern for the community in 2016, as the pace of killings ebbed and flowed during various parts of the year. Police and elected officials worked to get the problem under control with new initiatives and outreach, The Savannah Morning News reported (http://bit.ly/2jAyqaD).

Savannah’s bloodiest year was 1991, when 60 slayings were reported, many of them linked to gangs and crack cocaine, the Savannah newspaper reported.

“One homicide, of course, is too many, but I think the numbers are trending in the right direction,” Mayor Eddie DeLoach said.

In April, Police Chief Joseph Lumpkin announced the department was finally fully staffed - a first in 16 years. He said that community members would start to feel the effects of having a police force of more than 600 men and women by November of last year.

“Now that we’ve got our officers’ numbers up, we’ll continue to see better numbers,” DeLoach said. “That’s my hope for the new year.”

The department also aggressively increased officer recruitment, and Lumpkin pushed community-oriented policing, which focused on the relationship between police officers and those they swore to protect and serve.

The police department reported 280 aggravated assault with gun cases, down from the roughly 300 reported in 2015. Fifty rapes were reported last year, down from 59 in 2015. Commercial and residential robberies were down from 161 in 2015 to 138 in 2016.

Overall violent crimes - which include homicide, rape, commercial, street and residential robberies, aggravated assault with a gun and aggravated assault without a gun- increased slightly in 2016. The police department reported 1077 violent crimes in 2016 compared to the 1067 reported in 2015.

The police department’s jurisdiction covers the city, which has a population of about 145,000 residents and unincorporated county, according to Census Bureau data. The county has a population of about 286,000.

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