Providence crime and nightlife

Providence is receiving attention for impressive reductions in crime, and justifiably so. The city's 11 homicides in 2006 represented the lowest figure in many years, and this happened at a time when Boston, which enjoyed considerable success in reducing violence in the late '90s, has seen its murder rate soar. The Providence Police, under the leadership of Dean Esserman, as well as the Providence streetworkers, deserve considerable credit for this good news.

Esserman was the guest this past Sunday on WPRI/WNAC-TV's Newsmakers. Among other things, the chief, who requested a one-on-one appearance, told Steve Aveson that he was open to the idea of trying a 4 am opening for some Providence nightspots. The Phoenix and the ProJo's David Brussat have been outspoken proponents of this concept, as a way of diminishing the nightlife crowd control issues that lead to related problems. Although Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline is said to privately back the 4 am closing, he has been unwilling to publicly embrace it, probably because of the opposition of loud voices within the Providence Foundation and the Jewelry District Association. Instead, the city has focused on trying to squelch nightlife.

On January 12, the mayor announced the formation of the Hospitality Resource Partnership, a coalition "with the expressed goal of creating a more safe and vibrant arts and cultural environment downtown." We'll see. It's interesting to note that the Responsibility Hospitality Institute, an out-of-state nonprofit that works on related issues, and which helped the city to develop the HRP, hasn't returned requests for comment from the Phoenix in recent months.

Here's the bottom line: If Esserman & Co. can reduce homicides and other violent crimes in Providence, getting a handle on the headaches that come with nightlife should be a snap. And the 4 am closing time, perhaps on a rotating basis, is worth a try.

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