Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Major crime decreases in Hopewell
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Jan 8, 2013, 14:59

Despite a rash of shootings in the final months of 2012, major crime in Hopewell is down by 13 percent from 2011, according to numbers from the Hopewell Police Department.

The figures for murder remained consistent from 2011 to 2012, with two murders occurring each year. Other crimes classified as violent – forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault – all decreased in number. The total number of violent crimes dropped from 142 in 2011 to 92 in 2012, a 35 percent drop.

In 2012, burglary saw one of the biggest decreases of any crime category, Police Chief John Keohane said. There were 96 fewer burglaries in 2012 than there were in 2011.

Keohane said those numbers are a huge improvement from just two years ago in 2010 when he said burglaries were “off the hook.”

“We have stepped up patrols in commercial areas,” Keohane said.

Reacting to the two armed robberies that occurred within hours of each other on Dec. 26, 2012, Keohane said his department is taking steps to try and reduce these crimes around the city.

“I have to work with businesses on surveillance systems,” Keohane said.

Operations “Curve Ball” and “September to Remember” took many criminals off the streets of the city in 2012.

In June, “Curve Ball” brought about 60 indictments of 27 individuals. The six-month, undercover operation focused on street level drug distributors.

“This raises the quality of life for citizens of the city,” Keohane said at the time.

Commonwealth Attorney Rick Newman praised the police department after the operation.

“I am very pleased with the continued partnership with the Hopewell Police Department in targeting and eradicating these drug dealers from our streets,” he said in a statement. “This is another example of the great work Chief Keohane and his Crime Suppression Unit are doing to clean up crime in our city.”

The “September to Remember” operation was a three-day joint operation between the U.S. Marshals Service, Virginia State Police and the Hopewell Police Department that brought forth 42 warrants and yielded 15 arrests for burglary, robbery, grand larceny and gun charges.

Even with the overall decrease in crime, a number of incidents occurred throughout the year that caught the attention of city residents.

On December 3 at 10:35 pm, officers responded to shots fired in the 1500 block of Piper Square.

Two victims were suffering from gunshot wounds. The first victim, Morris D. Flowers, Jr., age 46, of Hopewell, died at the scene. Lamonta Ellis, age 30, of Spring Grove, VA, was med-flighted to VCU Medical Center and has since been released.

Two or three males dressed in all black wearing black masks opened fired on the victims in the breezeway between apartments. They fled on foot toward Old Iron Court, where a vehicle might have been parked just outside the gate on Old Iron Court. The case remains open.

The first murder in Hopewell in 2012 occurred on Jan. 2, when Emil M. Crenshaw, 24, was killed in the 600 block of East Broadway.

Just a day before the Piper Square shooting, a shooting occurred at the VFW bar, located on Winston Churchill Dr. The  Hopewell Police Department were monitoring the scene because of the large crowd.  At approximately 2 a.m., an altercation broke out and a passenger in a vehicle suffered gunshot wounds to the head and torso. The victim was identified as Jacory Moore, 23, of Petersburg and the offender was identified as Kentrell Butts, 20, of Hopewell. Butts has since been charged.

In September, a woman was seriously injured when she was hit by a car outside the Jolly Rogers restaurant. When they responded to a shots fired call at the restaurant, police found two people injured.

Paul Scott Bass, 52, of Hopewell, was charged with attempted malicious wounding, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, reckless handling of a firearm and discharging a firearm in the city.

Police determined that Bass displayed and discharged the small caliber handgun found at the scene. A driver fleeing the area where Bass was shooting struck 44-year-old Deia Wilkerson of Hopewell and Bass.

A shooting on Halloween night, brought about the arrest of nine people, including the juvenile victim, four other juveniles and four adults.

On Halloween night at 9 p.m. the police responded to a call of shots fired in the 3600 block of Wilmington Ave.

The case against the nine individuals, some of whom were charged with gang participation and gang recruitment, was brought before the court in December. Two people involved in the shooting who were scheduled to testify, but changed their mind the morning of the trial. They said if put on the stand, they would change their testimony.

Commonwealth Attorney Richard Newman said at the time the decision was made to enter nolle prosequi the morning of the scheduled trial.

“I was disappointed that the witnesses wouldn’t come forward,” Newman said after the incident. “I’m disappointed one of them changed his story, so there really wasn’t anything I could do.”

The only thing Newman could do was nolle pros the case, so that it can be brought back to court at a later date.

“That’s why it’s nolle prossed rather than having it dismissed, so it can be brought back,” Newman said. “I’m sure that the police department is going to continue to investigate and monitor it.”

Hopewell Police Chief John Keohane was also disappointed.

“Hundreds of hours went into this investigation by Hopewell, by everyone involved, to get the ones involved in the shooting off the streets,” Keohane said after the court ruling. “They locked in statements to put a case together and the case comes and they refuse to testify and the Commonwealth did the right thing to nolle pros so we can bring them up at a later date if someone decides to cooperate.”

Just before the end of 2012, Keohane said getting groups of criminals off the streets is essential to the safety of Hopewell residents. He said the police department has worked hard to ensure repeat offenders are taken off the streets.

“With four more days to go I am hoping for good things,” Keohane said at the end of the year.

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