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Assaults Not a Problem in Newport, City Manager Says

City Manager Jane Howington called a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to address an array of assault rumors.

Rumors of violent assaults that have "gone viral" on social media and the blogosphere of violent assaults prompted City Manager Jane Howington to hold a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. She addressed the rumors to assure the community that random, violent assaults are not as pervasive in Newport as the rumor mill makes them seem. 

Newport Police Chief Gary Silva and Lt. William Fitzgerald were also on hand to answer questions.

“We had one assault that triggered the blogs that created the [current] atmosphere,” she said, which she likened to a social media-induced panic.

The incident, which is still under investigation, involved a group assaulting a man who confronted them about playing loud music outside of his house late at night.

Howington attributed the snowball effect to the social media community connecting and drawing conclusions between incidents that may not be legitimate. She said there have been social media reports of “an array of assaults.”

Howington said any other rumored similar incidents, are just that, rumors, and have not been reported to police. Rumors include various instances of people being jumped, attacked or assaulted.

“We're not saying [some rumors] are not true, they're just not documented.”

Rumored reports of gang activity, however, are untrue, she said.

“We just wanted to make sure we're not missing anything.”

Members of Newport's hospitality industry have reported hearing murmurs of Newport being unsafe destination and feared tourists saying they did not want to visit the city because of recent assault reports.

“[These rumors] could have a major impact on our economy,” Howington said.

Seasonal workers and their employers have also expressed concern with rumored assaults since many employees carry large amounts of tip money late at night.

“If anyone feels unsafe, we need to do a better job," Howington said. 

Silva said the police department had not received any other assault reports consistent with the rumored instances.

“We can't control social media,” he said.

Silva said rumored reports they receive are mainly second or third-hand accounts. In order to accurately gauge assault trends in Newport, he advised victims and those with information about assault instances report them to the police department or the city.

In order for the city to be proactive, rather than reactive, people have start reporting assault incidents, he said.

“We don't have an assault problem,” Howington said. “We are a very safe community.”

The city and the police department will follow up the conference with crime statistics to further pinpoint whether or not these types of assaults are a problem and how to address any potential issues.

If you have any information that you would like to report, contact the Newport Police Department at 401-847-8300.

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Concerned Citizen September 28, 2012 at 11:55 AM
College kids pissing downtown vs citizens being assaulted; good comparison. Remember that this article and the comments are about the city manager who called a press conference with the sole intension of lying to the public. Pay attention , jt.
N September 28, 2012 at 01:22 PM
I started a petition here http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/remove-jane-howington-from-her-duties-as-city-mananger.html
SHS September 28, 2012 at 02:17 PM
It is mind boggling to me that a woman who is sexually assaulted doesn't report it! Rediculous mindset to think that becuase "the damage is done" that it is not worth reporting. The man who did the assaulting is still out there...what better reason does one need to report a sexual assault?????
Hairsonfire September 28, 2012 at 02:19 PM
You don't live a few blocks from that particulairly violent incident, it was on Kingston, one street over from Warner - FYI.
nptresident September 28, 2012 at 06:10 PM
It certainly is unbelievable that a man would feel too macho to report an assault or that a woman would not report a rape because what's done is done. Come on. The public safety is a risk. The police need to know what is going on. I find these claims to be unreasonable and without credibility. But..... There certainly are problems out there and I can't believe the City Manager would call a press conference to say that nothing is happening. Sad. I have seen a deterioration in the neighborhoods. I would hope that undercover cops are walking the beat. It's obvious to people who walk around town that issues that need to be addressed: unleashed dogs, public drinking in children's playgrounds, drug activity. If the everyday person sees it, why not the cops?
Bill September 28, 2012 at 06:47 PM
the country and the world are becoming more violent. I would say that Newport is one of the safest cities in the world. pick a city, and i mean "city" even in rhode island that you would rather live in? Pawtucket? Providence? walk down the street alone in any city and your asking for trouble. i've lived in the Newport my whole life and guess what i do....I don't walk home alone, I lock my doors and windows, I don't leave valuables in my car, I don't provoke groups of people, and If I ride a bike I assure you I'm not going to be hit by a car. Go to places like New York City, New Orleans, New Bedford, or a comperable sized city like Central Falls. I guarantee you would teleport back to broadway at 2 a.m. in a second if you could.
nptresident September 28, 2012 at 06:54 PM
GREAT POST! Newport is still a safer city than most. Thanks for putting this in perspective.
Concerned Citizen September 28, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Once again, the issue is the under reporting of violent crime by the police and the lies of the city manager. Rather than making believe it doesn't exist, we can fix it. It will only get worse, like it has in the last 20 years.
Kerry Daley September 28, 2012 at 09:50 PM
More police foot and bike patrols after dark would help tremendously, don't you think? I know personally of two people (men) who have been assaulted in the West Broadway neighborhood since June!
Natasha van Doren September 29, 2012 at 01:22 AM
When you are too weak to hold your six month old baby after an assault, that is not anywhere near the same kind of issues that we have had. We can't sit back and wait for someone else to fix things. We need to fix it. Now.
Natasha van Doren September 29, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Let me understand this, because we are not as bad as Providence we should just pretend it doesn't exsist? That makes no sense at all. No one is saying that Newport is the worst place to live. We are saying that there is a problem and WE want to fix it.
Bill September 29, 2012 at 01:49 AM
you did not understand that. I'm saying this happens everywhere, in every city. Protect yourself. Prevent yourself from being in these situations. Keep your valuables in safe places. Set up car pools from 2am jobs. Go as far as getting a licence to carry a conceled weapon. Don't walk up to cars with groups of people and tell them to turn it down. Call the police. These things can happen anywhere after midnight. On annandale, harrison, broadway, washington, thames, narragansett, warner, marchantt. Any street is a bad street at 2am. I feel bad for what happened to these people. but firing the City Manager won't solve the unsolvable problem. And replacing her with Batman or Superman or Spiderman would be way to expensive.
Mike Cullen September 29, 2012 at 01:34 PM
"get the community" involved? Great idea in the abstract but this particular city seems pained when in comes to city staff working with grassroots anything. It doesn't do anything formally with neighborhood associations, it doesn't encourage the growth of citizen organizations. NewportReady -- created on the heels of Irene and the death of Ms Batts -- was ignored for months until the Daily News editorial scolded the city. I'm hoping the glass is half full; the city-to-citizen efforts are moving ahead at a glacial pace but at least there's movement forward. We need to keep the pressure up on the council members, too, since they are part of the problem and the solution.
Mike Cullen September 29, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Hi "Nick" - I read the petition ... So, why would a "local" city manager be an improvement? Of course, a "local" would better understand the prevailing "cultcha" which if often pretty myopic and parochial.
bimbels September 29, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I've heard the stories of people getting mugged walking home after last call - was it last summer that was a big topic? Regardless of whether or not Newport IS any more or less safe, the PERCEPTION is that matters. Howington's "effort" to alter that perception came off as dishonest, it seems. The fact these 5 men are still at large isn't helping. Newport is a walking city. I walk everywhere I can, especially if I'm headed over to Broadway, so I don't have to drive home after drinking. Yes, Bill, it happens everywhere - but some cities ARE more dangerous than others and if people feel unsafe then the police aren't doing their job. I can lock my doors and guard my purse but I should be able to walk home and have a reasonable expectation of safety in my town - a town that also relies on tourists doing the same, BTW. Is it true that there was an earlier assault that same night, as Dan Anton said in his post, linked at the beginning of this article? And why wasn't this assault (and the other, if true) reported on Patch? I scrolled back through the Police and Fire articles and couldn't find it. In fact, there is no mention of it anywhere other than NDN, it seems. The omission of this information here gives the impression that the city is hiding something. Or is Patch picking and choosing which police reports to share with us here? Either way, it diminishes the credibility of this site.
local since 99 September 29, 2012 at 04:44 PM
I personally would like to invite Ms. howington to stay in my guest bedroom for one week so she can witness first hand what goes on after dark around here. I live off of a busy street and I too had to call the police a few weeks ago because somebody was getting beat up one house down. The police reports are not accurate. I am saddend for all the victims and it is everyone responsibility to keep posting and calling in incidents. I live here because I love that it is a walking town. I have stopped walking out of fear. I really hope the police department will start taking these concerns seriously.
Mike Cullen September 29, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Providence offers a timely example of a "Smarter City" at work that's helping engaged citizens understand what's going on around them in a timely manner. I just received this crime report email from Crimereports.com. Crime Type(s): [PPD]-Breaking and Entering Date: 2012-09-28 Address: 500 Block CHARLES ST City, State: PROVIDENCE, RI Police Narrative: Breaking and Entering Learn more: <I have shortened the long link> http://bit.ly/RecentProvCrimes Newport could do the same but only if citizens demand the service. The forces of the "status quo/we're good enough/don't rock the boat" in our beautiful city are powerful. If you want this kind of service, then ask the city manager and then your council candidate who wants your vote in November.
Bill September 30, 2012 at 03:51 AM
i'm sure the vast majority of people in Newport feel safe. And the vast majority of people on the patch message board just like to hear themselves talk. So the people on here, either want to get the city manager fired, the editor of the patch fired, add a few walking patrolmen. Which one of these three worthless ideas will solve the problem? none. so stupid. your causes are rightous but the ideas are useless. So when the city manager get fired because of this petition(which she wont) will the violence stop? If the patch editor gets fired(which she wont) will more crimes be reported? when you assign two or three officers to broadway and take them away from chapel terrace or tonomy hill will everything be ok? nope. so keep the witch hunt going. i'm sure there are people that work at your jobs that think you should be fired.
bimbels September 30, 2012 at 10:53 AM
Bill, I am going to assume your last comment here was partially directed at me - and I want to make clear that I am not calling fort anyone at Patch to be fired. Nor am I calling for anyone else to be fired. I have read Patch, particularly the police and fire, since it came to Newport. And I find it very odd that such a significant crime was not reported, especially when there's editorial space for OMG PD and other such nonsense. You can sit and be content with status quo if you'd like. The rest of us would like our supposedly safe town to be safer, and sitting back and wishing it to be true isn't gonna do it. I do not subscribe to the notion, as you appear to, that we must just shut up and be happy and accept things the way they are. While I do not agree with firing anyone over this issue, I do believe this forum is a good way for the town to hear how it's residents think and feel. Voicing our concerns and asking change is what caring, responsible citizens do.
Bill September 30, 2012 at 02:50 PM
it wasn't directed towards you. as you didn't say any of the three things i eluded to(i don't think). I just don't think there is a problem. i feel extremely safe in this town, which is why I still live here. which is the main reason nobody leaves here
joeshmo September 30, 2012 at 03:23 PM
u never, ever, ever see a cop walking a beat anymore, they all cruise and eat doughnuts
Mike Cullen September 30, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Compare Newport vs Providence using local crime data that flows to the FBI http://www.bestplaces.net/crime/?city1=54449960&city2=54459000 Yes the 1-to-10 rankings are simplistic, but at least it's a good way to move the discussion forward.
Bill October 01, 2012 at 03:39 PM
little problem....in this webcite there's a newport east...which gets 4s....making it safer than providence. the website looks pretty lame and cheesy to be taken seriously. here's another that claims FBI credentials. and says %100 of the communities in RI are safer than Providence. Not to mention murders....in providence they are usually in the teens each year, compared to like 3 or 4 in the last 20 years in newport. Credability of these websites aside....there is no way providence and newport are in the same ballpark. you know that
Bill October 01, 2012 at 03:40 PM
http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ri/providence/crime/#data
Chris St Peter October 03, 2012 at 12:35 AM
SNITCHES GET STITCHES
Jim October 04, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Bill, plenty of people leave Newport. I for one. Sorry but I'm not sure where you are getting your info? I'm happy YOU feel safe, glad to hear it. Just because Bill feels safe doesn't mean the town is.
Marc Mathis October 04, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Bill: Take a quick look at your list of previous posts. Nearly every comment you leave on Patch is snotty, smug, condescending, and dismissive. If you feel safe, then kick back, enjoy life, and let those of us who don't feel safe come together and discuss it. We live here too, and it takes a special kind of arrogance to tell a concerned group of citizens to shut up and deal, simply because their concerns do not personally impact you. As for myself, I am not calling for anyone's resignation. I do, however, think the idea of a single foot patrol on Broadway would certainly be a positive influence not only for the troublemakers who know they aren't being watched, but just as importantly, for the peaceful residents who no longer feel safe. And if you aren't one of them, please keep out of this conversation. By your admission, this issue does not affect you. Your input is irrelevant here.
Hairsonfire October 04, 2012 at 11:46 PM
You are speaking from experience I am guessing . . .
christopher rogers October 09, 2012 at 11:21 PM
I have to say that as a father of 3 children and a Newport resident i believe there is something really going on here.. broadway is very sketchy area late at night! I have noticed in the last couple of years things getting worse. as a United States Merchant Seaman i have been through some rough neighborhoods and i have seen some "sketchy" individuals on the prowl late in broadway area and i myself on more than one occasion have felt vulnerable to some sort of attack! The city manager i believe is playing this down for the benefit of the economy but even my 15 year old daughter tells me she or her friends will not stay out after the street lights come on. this is very upsetting and i hope the police are actively combatting this problem.
Brenda W December 03, 2012 at 11:13 PM
I am reading up on Newport, as we wanted to visit this summer. After reading about the possible cover-ups and "playing-down" of the real dangers, we are going elsewhere. Let me know when the City gets a handle on the crime, and we may visit in a few years. I am more afraid of the lack of appropriate response from the City than I am of the actual violent criminals.

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