Recent FBI statistics indicate that violent crime in New Bedford is down significantly. It is very difficult to convince the public of this because what they see with their own eyes seems to conflict dramatically with those numbers.

New Bedford recorded its eighth murder of the year this morning. That's almost triple the three homicides recorded for all of last year. The most recent killing occurred on Central Avenue. The first victim was a 27 year old Taunton man who was shot while driving at about 1:30 this morning. A 28 year old passenger was also shot, and pronounced dead at 11 this morning.

The FBI stats, based on crime figures submitted by the New Bedford Police Department indicate a sharp decline in violent crime between 2014 and 2016 from 1,199 crimes to 819. That's a 31% drop in violent crime. Information for 2015 was not available. These figures do not include issues related to drug use as in overdoses which have so far this year experienced a decline.

Granted the number of calls to my radio program are just a sampling of the overall population of New Bedford, but they seem to indicate to me that many people don't feel any safer in New Bedford this year with the city listed as the 8th most dangerous in Massachusetts for 2016 - a drop in ranking from the 3rd most dangerous in 2013, according to the FBI.

Perception is everything when you are trying to convince the people that their city is safe.  If people don't feel safe it doesn't matter what the FBI or local politicians say.

Crime and the perception that the city is unsafe by those on the inside and outside of our borders must take center stage in the upcoming municipal election.

The Mayor is not responsible for crime. That is a byproduct of the generation and culture in which we live. The Mayor can, however, take the concerns of citizens more seriously and speak more vigorously and forcefully about ways to fight crime. The Mayor must speak loudly to the absentee landlords who allow crime ghettos to exists and take bold initiatives to defeat those problems. Stronger codes and enforcement would be a good first start. The Mayor must speak out against sanctuary cities that provide shelter and protection for criminal illegal aliens and fight to keep Massachusetts from becoming a sanctuary state.

The Mayor must also understand that citizens view crime through their own eyes and their personal experiences and not through some FBI spread sheet. If the public believes that there is a crime problem than there is a crime problem. Figures on a sheet do not override perception.

All candidates for public office this Fall need to have a realistic and sober discussion about what can be done to make New Bedford a safer city and a place where citizens believe that they are safe.

Editor’s Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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