NASHUA — Some people have called it the summer of deaths in the Gate City, and while Police Chief John Seusing doesn't have an explanation for the unusual crime activity in the past few months, he is sure of one thing.
"Historically, Nashua has been, and absolutely will continue to be, a safe place to live," Seusing told the New Hampshire Union Leader this week.
In 2012, there was one homicide in the Gate City. So far this year, there have been five confirmed homicides in Nashua, in addition to 17 armed robberies.
Overall, there were nine dead bodies found in the city in less than six weeks this summer.
"When you look at it altogether, it can be alarming," he said. "Looking at all of these events, each one is certainly significant."
When Seusing was asked to identify a reason for the recent uptick in crime, he said, "I have no answer."
There are often highs and lows when it comes to crime in Nashua or other communities, he said, explaining this is obviously a peak for the city — one that he cannot explain.
Seusing is quick to reassure the public that his detective bureau is adequately and exceptionally handling its heavy case load, adding many of his detectives spend more time at work than they do at home.
Preventing some of these crimes from happening is also a top priority for the Nashua Police Department, and it is a job that isn't taken lightly, he said.
The police force has an authorized strength of 179 police officers, however there are never 179 officers working the streets because several of them are either in field training or participating in the police academy, he said.
"Certainly, we would be better off if we were at full working staff," said Seusing, meaning it would be ideal if he could have 179 officers on the streets and extra officers in training. "We do need to increase that number."
The Nashua Police Commission is reviewing an updated workload assessment that was recently completed, which Seusing believes will justify the need to hire additional police officers.
"Clearly, that number exceeds the 179," said Seusing, declining to quote a specific number of officers he would like to add to the force. Even if the commission approves a larger authorized force, the Board of Aldermen would have the final say since it adopts the budget.
Seusing is optimistic that he will receive approval for more manpower during the next budget cycle. A few months ago, city officials provided Seusing with funds to increase his authorized strength from 177 officers to 179.
"This new workload assessment shows that we need even more officers," he said. "… We have a community here that is pretty concerned."
Perhaps the most shocking crime this summer was the double homicide of an elderly couple, William and Eleanor Grant of 37 Newbury St. Last week, the Attorney General's Office announced that the Grants' neighbor, Shawn P. Burne, was likely responsible for their murders, however he has since committed suicide.
Neighbors were fearful in their own homes and the public was unsettled by the deadly stabbings, according to Seusing, who said his department encouraged the Attorney General's Office to release information about the man likely responsible in an effort to alleviate some of the concerns from citizens.
In addition to the murders of William and Eleanor Grant, other homicides in Nashua this year include: the death of Mary Danboise, who was killed in a murder/suicide by her now dead husband, Reginald Danboise, a local dentist; Judith Rolfe, who was allegedly killed at the hands of her brother, Duane Rolfe; and Devon Gould, a 2-year old boy who was allegedly beaten to death by his mother, Unique Gould.
While these are five confirmed homicides, there are two other suspicious deaths that are still being investigated in Nashua, including the unusual fire and explosion that killed Alfred Demeusy of 7 Carlisle Road, and the death of Christina Hill, 52, of Chestnut Street. Her manner and cause of death still have not been released.
"Of course it is a red flag when our homicide rate has increased at this significance. You have to look at each case, and they are completely unrelated," said Seusing, noting this is the first time in his career where he has seen this much criminal activity in the city.
One of the implications, he said, is that many cases are placed on the back burner while investigators focus their attention on more pressing and urgent crimes that take priority, such as homicides.
"That is very difficult, but unfortunately we have no choice in the matter recently," he said.
It is important to note that although there have been 17 armed robberies so far this year, the chief said 10 arrests have been made for similar crimes in that same time frame.
"Our officers are investigating these cases thoroughly and bringing them to justice," Seusing firstname.lastname@example.org