DeSoto Crime Numbers Are Up, Police Chief Says That’s Deceiving

DeSoto Mayor Chief Joe Costa explains to the audience that family violence calls are the most dangerous calls his officers are called to.

An In-depth Look At Crime Statistics in DeSoto

DESOTO – DeSoto Mayor Curtistene McCowan gave the introduction for a recent meeting concerning public safety: “Tonight we will hear from our Police Chief. This is part of our effort to make sure that our programs and services are being communicated to the public.”

While crime numbers might often seem like they are up in a city, DeSoto Police Chief Joe Costa said, sometimes numbers can be deceiving.

“The crime stats are not going up, but it looks like it could because of the way they track incidents,” he explained before diving into an hour-long presentation about crime numbers in DeSoto over the past five years.

Costa began the presentation with a look at the crimes in the city, including whether crime had increased or decreased in each category:

Aggravated Assault – 29.85% up
Homicide – NA
Larceny from MV – 8.62% down
Robbery – 6.78% – up
Sex offences; forcible – 7.89% up
Assault Intimidation – 54.76% up
Burglary/Breaking and Entering – 21.56% down
Destruction/Damage/Vandalism of Property – 5.44% down
Drug/Narcotics – 21.38% down
Larceny – 0
Larceny from Building – 25.64% down
Larceny of MV parts – 5.66% down
Larceny Shoplifting – 31.54% up
Motor Vehicle Theft – 7.56% down
Stolen Property Offenses – 36.36% down

Property Crimes Are Down

“We trended down in a lot of areas,” Costa said. “Violent crimes and robberies went up. Murders went up – we had five people die from homicide last year.”

In a five-year comparison, property crimes were down in 2019 by 26.2%. Family violence crimes were also down in DeSoto with the exception of last year at 523. That was as compared to being higher every year since 2015 with the exception of 2018.

“Family violence calls are the most dangerous calls our officers respond to,” Costa added.
In keeping with programs to educate the city about family violence, in 2014 the DeSoto Police Department developed a Domestic Violence Advisory Commission.

“That was due to our mayor pushing for something we could do to help bring awareness and educate and hopefully trend it down,” Costa said. “Over the last year we trended up. Why did we do that? I am not sure. Those programs that we developed and those who we work with bring awareness and training and education to our community and our youth. That helps us keep those numbers down.”

Domestic Violence advisory commission

In keeping with programs to educate the city about family violence, in 2014 the DeSoto Police Department developed a Domestic Violence Advisory Commission.

Costa said one of the programs for 2020 regarding family violence will be to work closer with the Domestic Violence Advisory Commission and to develop other programs to bring awareness up.

Burglary of Habitation has also improved in DeSoto by 43% since 2015.

“This is good as it means we are out there and more visible,” Costa said. “We are not having as many incidents as we have in the past. We are making arrests and we are in the community more and we are really doing some good things.”

He also talked about a “Bait Program” his department utilizes.

“I can’t tell you all about it because we will be giving our strategies away, but know that we do those things,” Costa said.

Violent crimes in DeSoto have been up since 2015, with the exception of robberies. Over the past five years, robberies are down 3%, “it does not seem like a lot, but it is,” Costa explained.

“I think this is due to a few things. One is that we are more physical out there and I also commend the community for calling us when they see something suspicious.”

2020 DeSoto Police Department Goals

The goals in 2020 for DeSoto’s Police Department are to reduce overall crime by 15%, expand the drone program established in 2017, utilize the facial recognition database program, digitalize records, increase sworn officers – currently at 79, add critical incident training for all officers as well as de-escalation training, add a K-9 officer and add a Teen Police Academy beginning this summer, a Civil Service Exam preparation and a Police and Citizens Together (PACT) program.

Residential video is also being utilized in the city to help stop crime. The Ring camera used by residents was mentioned as was the Flock Safety camera that reads license plates. This last camera has just been implemented for a cost of $3000 in DeSoto, but is too new to have results tested yet.

Code Enforcement’s Charles Humphrey spoke briefly about his department.

“This year we hired a code enforcement officer who specializes on vehicles parked on streets – those that are inoperable,” Humphrey explained.

His team also gets involved in situations such as grass that is not mowed properly.

Overall, Costa said there were 90,927 total calls in the city of DeSoto last year. This included 20,000 to 25,000 911 calls and the remainder were self-initiated calls.

Costa stressed the importance of citizens getting involved.

“More crimes have been solved with the help of people calling if something looks suspicious, call us, we can’t be everywhere,” he concluded.