For the third straight month and despite three murders, reported crime in Pine Bluff declined by double digits in July compared to a year ago.According to the latest monthly report from the Pine Bluff Police Department, there were 415 reported crimes last month, 73 fewer than in July 2016, or a 14.96 percent drop.

Assistant Chief of Police Kelvin Sergeant reported the figures during the monthly Coffee with the Chiefs program Tuesday, sponsored by Interested Citizens for Voter Registration.

“We had three homicides, one of them a double, but overall crime was down … that’s worth some applause,” Sergeant said.

So far this year, there have been 16 homicides in Pine Bluff, six more than were reported all of last year, a figure the Rev. Jesse Turner said was unacceptable.

Turner, chairman of the Faith Community Coalition of the Pine Bluff Ministerial Alliance, said, “as clergy, God has given us the authority to change the moral trajectory of our community. A 62 percent increase in homicides is unacceptable, and for a victim to be shot 16 times morally reprehensible.”

Turner was talking about Zaria Johnson, 19, who was shot multiple times on Saturday and pronounced dead a short time later at Jefferson Regional Medical Center. Jalin Reynolds, also 19, has been arrested in connection with the killing and is being held at the Jefferson County Adult Detention Center on a capital murder charge. Turner said this is not a Republican or Democratic issue, but “one which reveals the moral character of our city.”

He said the coalition will address the issue at their next meeting, which is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16, at St. Luke United Methodist Church in the Dollarway area.

“We shall address this issue as we collaborate with Mayor (Shirley) Washington to create an environment within our city for families and businesses to locate, remain and grow here,” Turner said.

Turner said the strategy is “more than a march but dialog which puts in place clear ideas to reduce homicides in Pine Bluff.”

With the exception of homicides, almost every category of reported crime in Pine Bluff showed a decrease last month compared to the previous year. Reported robberies and attempted robberies dropped from 23 to 14, reported aggravated assaults decreased from 49 to 38, simple assaults dropped from 137 to 122, and reported rapes and attempted rapes declined from seven in July 2016 to six last month.

In terms of property crimes, there were eight commercial burglaries reported last month compared to 22 in July 2016. Residential burglaries dropped from 99 in July 2016 to 56 last month, and there were two fewer reported thefts — 122 in July — than in July 2016.

Reported auto thefts increased from 26 in July 2016 to 46 last month, but for the year, there have been 69 fewer auto thefts reported than were reported in 2016.

Sergeant said the department recently went back to eight-hour shifts for officers after determining that at certain times there were not enough officers on the street for safety purposes.

“Now you will see nine to 12 officers per shift, and that does not include supervisors,” he said. `