LYNN — It was a lot safer in the city last year, according to the latest data from the Lynn Police Department.
After a near-record number of homicides in 2017, the homicide rate fell dramatically and so did most crimes.
In 2018, three people were killed, including 25-year-old Romel Danis, who was shot to death; Luz Yanina Acevedo-Gomez, 47, who was fatally beaten with a baseball bat allegedly by her husband; and 17-year-old Herson Rivas’s body was found fatally stabbed in a wooded section of a Lynn park. Arrests have been made in each of the cases and the defendants are awaiting trial.
In contrast, 2017 saw 13 homicides, the most since 1994, when there were 14 homicides, according to FBI statistics.
The only crime to increase last year was rape. Police said there were 40 rapes in 2018, a 43 percent increase over the previous year when 28 were reported.
Police Chief Michael Mageary said the rise may be due to the fact that more people are reporting the crime.
“We seem to have a lot more reports of rape now, in the past people did not come forward,” he said.
But the rest of the categories saw decreases. Among the biggest drops came in car thefts that were off by 28 percent as 200 vehicles were stolen last year, down from 278 in 2017.
Overall, robberies fell by 12 percent, street robberies that involved a firearm dropped by 26 percent and armed robberies at businesses slipped by 20 percent.
Thefts fell 16 percent to 973 incidents last year, down from 1,153 in 2017.
Police, Gov. Charlie Baker, and the Legislature are taking credit for the year-over-year drop in opioid overdoses and deaths. Last year, there were 54 victims of fatal overdoses, a 23 percent decline from 2017 when the city reported 70 deaths.
In addition, 4 percent fewer people overdosed last year. The total number of OD cases dropped to 485 in 2018, form 504 cases in 2017.
In 2016 and 2018, the governor signed landmark legislation to address the deadly opioid and heroin epidemic. Advocates say it was the first law in the nation to limit an opioid prescription to a seven-day supply for a first time prescription, increased bulk discount purchasing of Narcan, used by first responders to treat overdose victims, and making more money available for treatment.
The overall drop in crime comes as the number of police officers has shrunk to 164, down from 184 in 2015, an 11 percent dip.
“We’re trying to get back to 190 officers and we’re about 30 officers short,” said Mageary. “But for the last few years our crime numbers continue to improve. That speaks to the work that these officers are doing under difficult circumstances.”
Tish Mukala, co-chairwoman of the Highlands Coalition, a neighborhood group whose mission is to improve life in the center of the city, said while the numbers show a downward trend, police and residents can work together to make it safer.
“There is still a lot of work to do to,” she said. “There are not enough police officers and that makes community policing more difficult because fewer police are visible on the streets.”
Funding cuts have eliminated the Community Policing Program, she said. That program puts officers on the street making them visible to residents.
Mageary acknowledged budget cuts have eliminated the program.
“We don’t have the officers or the funding right for it right now,” he said. “If we get to 190 officers we will be able to reinstate that important program.”