FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- In less than two weeks, a big transition is coming to Fayetteville's police department: Chief Gina Hawkins is set to retire.
Hawkins told ABC11 on Wednesday that she's proud of how Fayetteville has transformed during her tenure. She said she's especially proud of how the department has embraced policing that is more centered on the community.
"It was an amazing ride for five-and-a-half years here," Hawkins said.
As she leaves office, the department's most recent data shows crimes against people and property dropped by about 27% from 2016 to 2021. But violent crimes -- specifically homicides -- are up by 9%.
WATCH: Full interview with Chief Hawkins
As she prepares to hand over leadership, Hawkins encouraged everyone to look at the bigger picture.
"We've drastically driven the numbers down year after year, and we all know we will never be a zero," she said. "So at some point, we expect our crime numbers to go up because we're comparing ourselves to the previous year. So that's a hard challenge to keep going down."
Hawkins said the department has continuously evaluated the city's crime and looked at holistic solutions and resources that include collaborating with residents. When asked about police brutality, Hawkins said she considered that topic to be another marker of how the department has evolved.
"We brought those topics to the table and that's unusual for law enforcement to bring those topics to the table -- like intervention and prevention and having the conversation of, why we don't have a lot of mental health resources in the community," Hawkins said.
Hawkins advised the incoming police chief, Kem Braden, to lead from the heart.
"If you love your department and you love your community, you will be OK," Hawkins said, citing advice she was given when she became top cop.
Hawkins' last day is Jan. 31.