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Editor's Note: Behind the crime stats

THE FINAL numbers are in, and they're grim.

The “official” homicide numbers for the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Dept. jurisidiction were released late last week.

The top line number — 50 homicides — is only three below 2015’s horrifying high of 53.

That 53 is perhaps the most significant metric in the election loss of former Mayor Edna Jackson and several sitting Council members.

Drilling down into the numbers, we see a bit of hopeful news. Or shall we say, less-bad news.

Of 2016's 50 homicide cases, only 20 remain open. That’s actually pretty good.

Adding in the fact that there were eight homicide arrests in 2016 for killings in prior years, SCMPD is claiming a homicide clearance rate of 76 percent for 2016.

Police say that in 2015 the national homicide clearance rate was 61.5 percent.

Despite what seemed to be a relentless series of horrifying headlines about armed robberies, aggravated assaults with firearms were actually down a fair amount from 2015.

There were 280 of those in 2016, compared to 305 in 2015 — a roughly nine percent decrease.

At this point, we’ll take good news where we can find it.

From a higher altitude, we see that the homicide totals of 2015 and 2016 — 53 and 50 respectively — both represent significant spikes from years prior.

From 2007-2014, the murder rate ranges from a low of 20 in 2010 to a high of 32 in 2014.

The sudden dramatic jump in homicides from 2014 to 2015 represents an astounding increase of 65 percent!

As for aggravated assault with a firearm, that stat also shows a jaw-dropping jump after 2014, where there were “only” 198.

If my math is right, aggravated assaults with guns skyrocketed over 50 percent from 2014 to 2015.

That’s huge.

In all, however, there’s one perhaps countintuitive number that jumps out the most.

When you add all the Part I Violent Crimes together — homicide, rape, commercial robbery, street robbery, residential robbery, aggravated assault with and without a gun — the total change from 2015 to 2016 is virtually negligible: One percent higher in 2016.

Compare that to the shift from ‘14 to ‘15: A jump in total violent crimes of 26 percent.

(Coincidentally, the number of rapes in 2016 is exactly the same as homicides: 50. That represents a decrease from 59 in 2015.)

In terms of trend analysis, we’re forced to conclude that 2015 and 2016 stand on their own as almost eerily similar compared to each other.

But taken as a unit they also stand in stark contrast to the prior decade.

For whatever reason, as 2014 morphed into 2015 there was just a hell of a lot more violence on the streets of Savannah.

That trend in violence which began spiking in 2015 continued basically unabated throughout 2016.

The questions as to what factors may have driven the seismic shift in overall crime in Savannah from 2014 to 2015 will be interesting to delve into and discuss.

Of course, this being Savannah, crime will always be a political issue. It was a political issue in terms of getting Mayor Eddie DeLoach and a new Council majority elected, and it will be a political issue in the next mayoral election in 2019.

DeLoach’s opponents are already pointing out that despite promises to the contrary, crime has basically stayed the same during his first year in office.

The easy counter is that SCMPD only just recently came up to full staffing for the first time in recent memory. And the homicide clearance rate is evidence that SCMPD’s efforts are getting more on track.

The simple truth is we don’t have enough data points — yet — to see a clear trend. But at some point this year, we’ll no doubt begin to see a trend take shape either way.