City of Florence sees major drop in juvenile crime - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

City of Florence sees major drop in juvenile crime

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FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) -  The City of Florence saw a 48 percent decrease in the total number of reported incidents in the past four years, according to the Florence Police Department.

Juvenile crime reports since 2008 reveal that for the past four years the total number of offenses has dropped. Offenses include twelve categories: assault, shoplifting, disorderly, larceny, vandalism, drugs, burglary, auto theft, robbery, weapon, sex and others. The total number of incidents reported in 2008 was 1,070. So far in 2012, that number has dropped to 554.

The individual categories have gone down since 2008, with fluctuations year-to-year in areas like drug offenses and auto theft.

"Any decrease in juvenile crime cannot be done without the help of the entire community in my opinion," said Chief Anson Shells of the Florence Police Department. "No one person, no one organization, we are very fortunate here in Florence that we have a lot of people working together to bring the juvenile crime rate down."

Chief Shells gives credit to groups like the Boys and Girls Club in North Florence.

"In 2008, there was a bigger push from the total community to do something with the juvenile crime rate in giving teens and younger kids something to do," said Neal Zimmerman, the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club.

The Mayor's Coalition to Prevent Juvenile Crime, formed in 2004, brought groups like the Florence Police Department, the YMCA of Florence, and the school system together. In 2008, Zimmerman says the group saw renewed focus.

"The coalition serves to bring everyone together and say 'what can we do together to address this problem?'" said Jim Shaw, Director of the Coalition.

"Instead of this little group staying together in their own little silo, we say let's put children first and see what their needs are and how can all of us come together and address this problem," Shaw said.

In the past four years  the number of assaults from 2008 to now dropped about 70 percent; burglaries went down 85 percent; and robberies decreased by about 70 percent.

The police department helps the Coalition to target where and when youths commit crimes.

"We found that the crime was taking place after school, between the hours of 3:30 and 6:00 p.m.," Shaw said.

"There are certain areas of our city that have higher juvenile crime than others like North Florence," Chief Shells said. "We've focused our attention there and have been successful in reaching some of the kids."

Zimmerman says the key is getting kids into after school and summer programs.

"As we do more stuff in our clubs, kids are going to become better, more positive adults," Zimmerman said.

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