Police chief's column: Duluth sees decrease in serious crime numbersAs we move to the halfway point of 2013 I want to reflect on how the Duluth Police Department is doing with our number one goal: crime prevention.
By: Gordon Ramsay, For the Budgeteer News
As we move to the halfway point of 2013 I want to reflect on how the Duluth Police Department is doing with our number one goal: crime prevention.
In 2012 Duluth saw a 14 percent decrease in our part one crimes from 2011. Part one crimes are serious felonies that include homicides, rapes, serious assaults, car thefts, robbery, arson and burglary. Less serious crimes (part two crimes) statistics declined 16.9 percent in 2012 compared with 2011.
The reality in Duluth is that our crime numbers are not high and it does not take a lot to swing them one up or down. Over the years I have seen a busy crook send our crime numbers soaring. When that crook is locked up we see numbers decline. Ideally, we want to see a sustained decrease in crime year after year. So far 2013 is seeing a continued overall decline. We continue to monitor crime trends on a daily basis and deploy resources accordingly.
So considering the crime decreases we have seen, what is the overall feel with crime in Duluth? Since a person’s perception is their reality, I take the perception of crime in Duluth as seriously as the actual statistics. I look to the annual Citizen’s Survey that Mayor Ness began having administered about four years ago.
In 2012 the survey numbers showed that about 93 percent of Duluthians felt safe in their neighborhoods during the day. That number has remained relatively steady over the last few years. The number of people who feel they are safe from violent crime has risen from just 58 percent in 2010 to 72 percent in 2012. These numbers tell me that people are feeling safer overall in Duluth.
The reality is that we simply see very, very few incidents of people being assaulted by people they do not know. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of our robberies are over drugs and drug debt. We continue to see a major decline in the number of commercial robberies.
So, you may ask, what is the major area of focus in regard to the perception of crime and disorder? We need to change the perception of safety downtown. We have more officers on foot and -bike downtown today than in the last 30-plus years. The citizen survey results for 2012 indicate 75 percent of the people feel safe downtown during the day.
More concerning is that only 24 percent feel safe downtown after dark. That number is something we have been trying to turn around for the last several years. We saw improvements from 2010-2011; however, in 2012 we saw a decrease in the perception of safety after dark. I believe the sale of synthetic drug issue has really hurt the perception of downtown and anticipate we will see our survey numbers for this year reflect that.
While the perception may be that people feel unsafe downtown after dark, the reality is that there is not much violent crime downtown at all and what little there is is almost always committed by people who know the victim with a drug or alcohol connection. The perception of crime downtown does not match with the reported crime statistics. Downtown is safe and we continue to make it a priority to collaborate with our partners to improve the perception.
The last item I wanted to touch on is the value of police. I recently read a study completed by the Rand Center for Quality Policing. In the study it talked about the economic value of police in a community. In terms of budgeting, police traditionally are looked at as an expense. Studies and accomplishments in recent years show police are more of an investment than a budget item.
We are seeing more cost benefit analyses completed across the country that clearly shows there is tremendous value in having additional police officers work in problem areas.
The Rand study places specific cost to crimes. It looks at the “social and personal” costs to crime and attaches dollar figures to specific crimes. When officers are deployed properly, and crime and disorder is successfully addressed through proper policing strategies, property values improve, business climates improve and the overall perception of crime and disorder improves.
In future months I will write more about looking at police officers as an investment in our community, versus simply an expense.
Contact Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay at 730-5020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.