Chief Roger Waller says the crime rate on First Street is looking up, but so are the criminals -- they're looking up to Fourth Street.
An increase of pressure on First Street, in the downtown area, has led to a displacement of street-level crime on Fourth Street. These low level crimes include panhandling, prostitution, street drug trafficking and petty crime. "The criminals move where there is less police activity," Waller said. "But we're going to apply pressure everywhere so that the crime is displaced out of our jurisdiction."
Police presence on First Street has been beefed up from one officer to three, with a specific First Street beat. In the last year, arrests and jailings of low-level criminals in the area has increased. "And some (criminals) have just gone away," Waller said.
"We are very pleased with the stepped up enforcement," Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council (GDC), said. "A number of businesses have said they've seen a difference."
Combined with the officers, the Duluth Downtown Waterfront District's Clean and Safe Team, described as the eyes and ears of the police department, have been working diligently on improving the downtown climate.
While the Clean and Safe Team has no authority, it looks and sounds very official. "They are familiar with city ordinances and what people can and cannot do," said Stokes.
As for Fourth Street, Stokes said displacement of crime is unfortunately inevitable, and that the GDC is doing all it can within its boundaries.
Waller said the department has "knocked down crime there, too," by working with landlords to evict problem tenants and giving penalties for excessive police services. "This is not just a police action," he said. "It's a community action -- businesses and social service agencies are partnering in this, too."
Naomi Gordon works for Neighborhood Housing Services, headquartered in the Central Hillside neighborhood of Fourth Street. She said she hasn't seen much of a difference in crime or police presence. "It doesn't sound good that crime is moving up to Fourth, but I guess I'll have to wait and see," Gordon said, who admits she's calloused. "I moved here from North Minneapolis where I guess it's a lot worse. Crime here is minimal in comparison."
The Duluth Police Department plans on practicing proactive policing both on Fourth and First Streets. "Low level crimes are an every day occurrence," Waller said. However, in his eyes, success is prevention and at this point, the department is focusing on sustainability.