Danville Police Chief Scott Booth has received a policing award from Radford University for his department’s role in reducing violent crime and improving community relations.
Roberto and Rachel Santos, co-directors at the university’s Center for Police Practice, Policy and Research, presented the 2020 Excellence in Policing Award to Booth during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Danville City Hall. Radford’s center blends evidence-based and practice-based research to inform what it sees as the best methods in crime prevention and police practices.
This award, in it second year, is given to a sworn police officer, supervisor, commander or executive — who is a leader in their agency — for implementing innovative strategies that bring about change and improve policing, Rachel Santos said during the ceremony Monday.
“We hold this person up and their agency as an example for other agencies,” she said.
“I’m absolutely humbled,” Booth said.
Pointing to his two-and-a-half years as police chief in Danville, Booth recalled noticing the city’s supportive leadership “that wanted things to get better. The department was hungry to get better.”
The Santoses noted the department’s stratified policing approach to reduce one of the highest violent crime rates in Virginia for both violent and property crimes.
“He’s a leader in embracing evidence-based strategies,” Roberto Santos said during the ceremony, pointing to the department’s ability to sustain reduction in crime and build community relationships.
Booth credits implementing proactive crime reduction along with systematic community engagement activities for the decline in crime while also improving the department’s relationship with Danville’s residents.
The department plans to continue its proactive crime reduction efforts, which include a project to prevent the escalation of domestic violence and increase victim safety through an innovative, proactive approach designed to be used in conjunction with a recent federal grant from the Community Policing Development Program.
Mayor Alonzo Jones said Booth’s award was well-deserved.
“This police chief took the vision of City Council and immediately started community policing,” Jones said after the ceremony. “This award is a result of him listening to the community and listening to the leadership.”
Danville’s crime rate has been on the decline, with homicides decreasing by 50% from 2016 to 2019 and appear to be continuing for 2020, according to statistics from the city’s police department in July.
Note these changes:
- There were 16 homicides in Danville in 2016, but by 2019 that number dropped to eight. There have been five so far this year.
- Other crimes, including assaults, robberies and burglaries, are also down significantly.
- Aggravated assaults — those involving use of a deadly weapon — and robberies fell by about two-thirds from 2016 to 2019, and burglaries have decreased by 36% — slightly more than a third — since 2017.
- Simple assaults involving a person trying to commit battery or place someone in fear of bodily injury fell by 25% from 2016 to 2019.
- There were 213 aggravated assaults in 2018 but 68 by last year. Robberies went down from 76 four years ago to 25 in 2019.
Booth said he plans to enhance community engagement further to improve relations and reduce crime.
“We have a lot more as a city and an organization to do together,” he said.