A spate of recent shootings has Hall County residents notably concerned.
Jan. 14: A Dahlonega man took hostages at Lanier Dermatology in Gainesville before he was shot and killed by police, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Jan. 19: A Gainesville man was shot and killed in his home on Desota Street in Gainesville. People have been questioned but no suspect has been named.
Jan. 23: A Lula man was shot multiple times at the Huddle House in New Holland and a woman was shot in the face on Marlow Drive southeast of Gainesville. Both were seriously injured but survived. A single suspect was later charged in both incidents.
Feb. 7: A Gainesville businessman and philanthropist was shot and killed in what police believe was an attempted robbery or carjacking. An East Point man is charged in the case.
Feb. 10: A Commerce man was shot and killed outside the QuickTrip on Lanier Islands Parkway in Buford. A Canton man is charged in the case.
That’s four people dead.
Perception seems to be that Hall County is now a dangerous place. The reality is different.
Hall County’s violent crime rate of 221.2 incidents per 100,000 inhabitants is less than that of the state average of 357.2 incidents in 2017, the most recent statistics available from the FBI. And the state average is less than the national average of 394.
In the city of Gainesville, where two of the three fatalities occurred, there were 37 cases in 2017 of assault involving a firearm, according to Gainesville Police. In 2018 there were 28 cases. In 2019, that number so far is four.
Crimes of passion can be more difficult to predict in areas like Gainesville and Hall County because there’s less data with less frequent incidents, according to Douglas Orr, a professor of criminal justice at the University of North Georgia.
In 2015, there were five murder cases in Hall County, according to what local agencies reported in the Georgia Uniform Crime Reporting program. In 2016, there were seven, and in 2017, five. A county like Gwinnett, meanwhile, has closer to 30 cases annually.
Our community is growing, and crime should of course be a concern, but reactions should be based in reality rather than perception.
When it comes to violent crimes like what the region has seen since the start of the year, most often there’s a relationship between the offender and victim, Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish told The Times.
Incidents of what appear to be random crimes, such as the CVS shooting, are scarier, especially when they happen at places that residents frequent like the CVS or the Huddle House.
“They’re so unrelated. You have three different offenders that had no nexus to one another, all three had very different motives,” Parrish said of the serious crimes in the city. “You can’t do any predictive analysis and it is frustrating.”
Any time there is a rash of violent crime there tends to be a call for increased police presence and more attention to law enforcement. But you can have an officer on every street corner 24/7, and still not stop personal animosities from resulting in death, or prevent a crime of opportunity from turning violent.
Our law enforcement worked around the clock to solve the CVS case, pulling in resources from multiple agencies and following up on every lead.
Police are also increasing patrols in the Park Hill Drive area, where a couple of the incidents occurred.
Gainesville and Hall County are wonderful places to live because they are relatively safe and our law enforcement helps make it so.
If you’re concerned about the seeming uptick in violence, don’t put a for sale sign in the yard or live in fear of going to the pharmacy.
Pour into the community instead.
Incidents of domestic violence and crimes of passion often involve issues with anger, alcohol or substance abuse, Orr said.
Jack Hough, victim of the shooting at CVS, was known as a philanthropist. Part of that work was on the board of the Hall-Dawson Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA volunteers represent children’s best interests in court when their families are broken, often due to issues like substance abuse and sometimes domestic violence. The breakdown of the family unit can cycle into more of the same unless people like Hough step forward.
While our law enforcement works to solve crimes and encourage criminals to stay away from our area, let’s as a community work to continue the great work of agencies like CASA, the Gateway Domestic Violence Center, the new Jeffrey Dallas Gay Jr. Recovery Center and so many others.
Murder cases 2015 2016 2017
Hall (199,335 population) 5 7 5
Bibb (152,862) 34 15 29
Cobb (755,754) 26 18 27
Cherokee (247,573) 3 8 4
Forsyth (227,967) 0 0 4
Fulton (1,041,423) 138 161 124
Gwinnett (920,260) 27 27 33
Muscogee (194,058) 19 21 35