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    New data shows steep decline in Norristown violent crime rate

     (Laura Benshoff/WHYY)

    (Laura Benshoff/WHYY)

    Norristown, the beleaguered seat of Montgomery County, is getting safer, according to new numbers released by the borough’s police department.

    Residents faced 38 percent fewer violent crimes — including homicide, rape, and aggravated assault — between 2014 and 2016 compared with the previous three years.

    The numbers were released as a part of the Police Data Initiative, a push for more transparency in police work started by the federal government under former President Barack Obama. The time periods correspond to the three years before and after Chief Mark Talbot was hired and began implementing what he called “our new policing strategy,” focused on improving police and community relations.

    “There’s a natural barrier between police and people because police have the power. It’s up to us to reduce those barriers and facilitate relationships,” said Talbot.

    The Police Data Initiative, which launched in 2015, has a stated goal to “build transparency and increase community trust,” by showing the public what police are responding to and where. Talbot said the department has cultivated relationships with residents in crime hotspots to try to increase reprorting and reduce crime.

    The data helps inform the public and police about area crime and how it’s being tackled.

    “We use the crime-mapping as one of our resources when we’re analyzing the data to focus on hotspots to see what crimes are occurring and where,” said Kristi Barletta, data analyst for Norristown police. “Then we’re able to make operational decisions on where we’re focusing our patrols.”

    Department officials said it’s that focus on data and building community trust that’s contributed to the decline in crime, and hopefully, an uptick in quality-of-life.

    “I think it’s really easy to forget in policing that what you’re trying to do is prevent victimization. You’re trying to make people live better lives,” said Talbot.

    Drug possessions were the only category to see an uptick during the three-year period, from 607 between 2011-2013 to 680 from 2014-2016.

    Other lesser crimes including simple assault, drug sales and and theft from a moving vehicle declined during that most recent three-year period.

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