Fayetteville saw a dramatic 30 percent increase in violent crime last year while property crimes declined for the fourth year in a row. Increases in murders and aggravated assaults in Fayetteville mirror a national trend, said Interim Police Chief Anthony Kelly. The city recorded an all-time high in annual homicides in 2016, 31. In 2015 there were 19 murders. All the cases have been cleared with arrests. “We struggle with the violence every day,” the chief said. Homicides in the African American community are personal for Kelly. He attributes black-on-black crime to “risky lifestyles and societal issues such as poverty and unemployment.”
Kelly’s annual report included demographic data showing that 85 percent of the perpetrators in the city’s 31 violent deaths were black. They were not random killings for the most part. Twenty-seven of the 29 murder cases were crimes among acquaintances. There were two double homicides in 2016. Rape cases were up 42 percent and aggravated assaults increased by 53 percent last year. Kelly pointed out that throwing a pencil at someone is categorized as an aggravated assault. “Law enforcement shoulders more than its share of responsibility for coping with a society of broken homes and lack of jobs” that the greater community should play a role in fixing, Kelly added.
Robberies went down 15 percent and virtually all property crimes also saw decreases. Burglaries and larcenies have been on the decline since 2013. Six hundred thirty-five motor vehicles were stolen in 2013. Last year, that number was reduced to 392. The FPD has engaged in a public awareness campaign in recent years, encouraging residents not to leave their cars unlocked. The chief reassured officials that there’s an upside to the war on crime locally. “There’s no leadership structure and no organized gang activity,” which is often the case in large urban areas.
Kelly also reported on vehicle crashes: There were 109 auto accidents last year, which included 21 fatalities. Five young people were killed in a single crash, making it the worst motor vehicle accident in Fayetteville in recent memory. In the last few years the FPD has kept close track of citizen complaints and compliments. Complaints have been on the decline while compliments have increased. The department’s internal affairs unit took 28 complaints last year compared with 56 in 2015 and 62 the year before that. Officers received 87 compliments in 2016 compared with 65 in 2015, the first year records were kept.
Chief Kelly is a career lawman having served with the Fayetteville Police Department for 22 years. He has not said whether he will seek the chief’s position on a permanent basis. City Manager Doug Hewett just last week told city council he intends to launch a nationwide search for a successor to recently retired Chief Harold Medlock. In Fayetteville, the police chief is hired by the city manager. Following Kelly’s presentation to city council, he received praise and support from most members of the body.