WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – In 2015, homicides in West Valley City tripled than in previous years, leaving the department looking closer into the numbers and asking why there was such an increase?
Last year, the number of homicides in West Valley City reached 9. But, that’s not the highest its ever been. In 2005 it peaked to it’s highest number of 10 homicides. On average West Valley City sees three homicides per year so, when the numbers tripled for 2015 West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo began to look at the data to figure out any patterns.
“When you see a number jump like it has, expecting three or so, and all of a sudden you have nine. Three times that number, you wanna start to understand what’s driving this, is there any particular theme or problem,” says Russo.
And according to him, there wasn’t. There were no commonalities in geography, demographics, or any other unique patterns that he could find, except for one. In a majority of the cases the suspect knew the victim.
“In six of the cases the suspect was known or there was an acquaintance type of relationship between our suspect and our victim. But, we really ran the gambit of things, and as I looked at that, what I began to come to a conclusion of is this might just be an anomaly,” he said.
Even so, West Valley took a closer look at the numbers and also noticed most aggravated assaults stemmed from a domestic violence dispute, and they also noticed within a year, a person in that type of situation would become a homicide victim. To combat this problem the police department implemented a lethality assessment to help save more victims.
“Jurisdictions that have implemented this program have actually, within the first year, seen a significant reduction – around 30% – in domestic related homicides,” says Russo.
West Valley Police is also looking at areas that have a tendency to spark more types of crimes, taking a closer look at drug and gang patterns, areas with a higher volume of disorderly behavior – to allocated the proper resources to those areas.
“We look at those to determine what kind of contributing factors may be there or things that we can look for so we can say, ‘OK, let’s start putting police resources and programs in effect in those areas that will intervene in these problems,” says Russo.
Chief Russo described the 2015 statistic like a stock market. In a stock market you’ll find peaks and valleys. He refers to the high number of homicides in 2015 as a peak. Because, he did not find any common denominator, pattern, or link that provided some insight into the increase in homicides last year, he doesn’t feel 2016 will see such a high number as 2015 did. However, if the department does begin to notice a higher volume of homicides this year, it will become even more of a concern for the department, and they’ll be looking into the data even more to learn or find new patterns that could lead to an answer for the increase in homicides.
West Valley Police say all nine homicides that occurred in 2015 were all solved and the suspects were arrested.