Lynn may yet lose the “City of Sin” label.
For the third consecutive year, nearly every crime category has decreased, according to the latest data from the Lynn Police Department.
The number of rapes, assaults with a dangerous weapon, motor vehicle thefts, larceny, and armed robberies fell in 2019.
“We continue to see a downward trend in crime,” said Police Chief Michael Mageary. “Those numbers speak volumes about the hard work by the men and women of this department.”
Among the crime categories that dropped included armed robberies which fell by 24 percent to 108 last year, down from 142 in 2018. There were 37 rapes reported in 2019, compared to 40 in 2018.
Overall, assaults decreased by 6 percent to 1,042, while the number of assaults with a deadly weapon fell by 14 percent to 259, down from 302 in 2018.
Motor vehicle thefts, a crime that once plagued the city, have fallen dramatically. The number of stolen cars peaked five years ago at 303. Last year, the number dropped to 85, the lowest level of all times, down from 200 in 2018, a 58 percent dip.
“The decrease in car thefts is the result of proactive patrols in some areas and our campaign on social media to tell car owners to lock their car doors,” Mageary said.
The reduction in crime came as the number of officers and command staff was down to its lowest level last summer. Mageary said the force totaled about 160 in July. At its peak, he said, the department had 190 officers.
Still, Mageary credited Mayor Thomas M. McGee for his plan to add two dozen officers. He said 18 candidates graduated from the Police Academy in June and another seven are expected to complete their training in April.
Still, the news wasn’t all good. Murders doubled to six last year, up from three in 2018.
The victims included Vannark Chourb, 29, a former Lynn gang member who had been recently released from prison, was shot to death on Elm Street in February; Anthony Betancourt, 32, was shot and killed on Williams Street in April; Charles Stankiewicz, a 36-year-old homeless man from Lynn, was stabbed to death on Union Street in August; Brandon Jesurum, 34, was shot to death at the Warren Street Playground in August; Ana Morin, 63, was found stabbed to death on West Neptune Street in October; and David Casey, 59, whose unresponsive body was found by a Lynn Police officer on Liberty Street in November.
“Any uptick in homocides is a concern and even one murder in Lynn is unacceptable,” said Mageary. “It’s complicated. It’s a combination of the availability of guns, young kids who have access to weapons, and a complete disregard for human life. Fortunately, arrests have been made in most of the cases.”
The other category to see a rise was home and business robberies.
The number of home break-ins swelled by 15 percent last year to 172. That’s up from 150 in 2018. Robberies from stores and offices rose to 49 from 41 in 2018.
“We’re obviously not happy with those numbers and will continue to work on it,” the chief said.
Police, Gov. Charlie Baker, and the Legislature are taking credit for the year-over-year drop in opioid overdoses. Last year, there were 348 cases in Lynn, down from 431 in 2018, a 19 percent drop. The number of fatal overdoses last year was 54, unchanged from 2018.
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, the drug used by first responders to treat overdose victims, and making more money available for treatment.
David Gass, director of the Highlands Coalition, a neighborhood group whose mission is to improve life in the city, said he’s not so sure crime is diminishing. “I have seen drug deals, violence, and a violent initiation of a new member into a gang in our neighborhood,” he said. “We need more eyes on the streets. It’s not enough to have more police. One of our goals is have the Ford Elementary School gym [on Hollingsworth Street] open at night, staffed with police, and social and youth workers.”