Preventing summer violence top of mind for Albany police chief

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As some of us know and as statistics show, when temperatures rise, so do crime rates.

However, as law enforcement around the nation prepare for a potential increase in violent crimes, Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins is optimistic.

“We know that there is more activity. We know that we have individuals that are on the violent extreme of things,” explained Chief Hawkins. “So we’re going to do the same thing we do every year, we have additional police resources out there. We have additional funding from the state to allow us to have these additional patrols and policing.”

Hawkins doesn’t believe it will be a bloody summer in the city, but he does have one concern – illegal guns. Hawkins said from 2019 to 2020, the city’s confirmed shots fired more than doubled.

The firearm homicide rate in the United States increased nearly 35% from 2019 to 2020, according to a CDC report published in October 2022, coinciding with the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. This increase affected all ages and most population groups, but not equally.

“In cities across the country, we’re seeing individuals who have a lack of impulse control, not able to resolve conflict in a peaceful manner,” Hawkins said.

In Albany, Hawkins said the department is arresting more young men for illegal gun possession and violent crimes.

“Our statistics tell us that less than 1% of the population of the city is responsible for the vast majority of the violent crime that you’re going to see in the city,” explained Chief Hawkins. “60% to 70% of those are violent crimes, and so we’ve got this small, less than 1%, mostly young men.”

The strategy Hawkins said he has is arresting as many criminals as possible, but admitted incarcerating people won’t put an end to the violence. With the help of the community, the chief is hoping there can be intervention well before these young men become criminals.

“We’ve got to slow the supply of young men going in there. That’s why I say it’s so important that the community – and with the police department working with the community – that we’re helping some of these young men at very young ages,” added Chief Hawkins. “‘Cause once you’re in it, from my experience, you become a part of this whole deal where it’s OK to shoot up a barbershop, because you have some grievance with some person that happened to be at that spot at that particular moment.”