It's criminal: Misperceptions rule on wrongdoing in Duluth
Complete this sentence: Crime in Duluth is _____________. In an unscientific online News Tribune poll last week, an overwhelming 85.3 percent of respondents indicated their belief that crime was "up" in Duluth. Only 5.39 percent felt crime had go...
Complete this sentence: Crime in Duluth is _____________. In an unscientific online News Tribune poll last week, an overwhelming 85.3 percent of respondents indicated their belief that crime was "up" in Duluth. Only 5.39 percent felt crime had gone "down," and 9.32 percent noticed "no change."
The results weren't surprising given the recent rash of high-profile cases, including a string of gas station robberies, a break-in at a Congdon Park home in which a mother and her son were tied up, and a teenager accused of entering a Morley Heights home while a woman and her 8-year-old daughter were inside. In addition, political candidates often talk of crime as evidence that change is needed. And during a discussion about problem rentals last month, City Councilor Garry Krause declared that "crime in Lincoln Park and Morgan Park is rampant."
But is it really? Rampant?
The answer from Police Chief Gordon Ramsay was quick and definitive -- and, no doubt, surprising to many: "It's not the case," Ramsay told the News Tribune editorial page staff last week. "If you look at the crime figures, they speak for themselves. Our crime rate goes up and down, always has."
And now, it's down -- serious crime by nearly 9 percent citywide this year over the same January-through-July period of a year ago. Sexual assaults are down 17.8 percent, physical assaults 2.4 percent, vehicle thefts 20.7 percent, vehicle prowls 19 percent, robberies 3.9 percent, and physical domestics 6.9 percent.
Reports of people with weapons are down 3.6 percent last year to this year, according to police records. And homicides -- a category where it's especially true that even "one is too many and none are OK," as Mayor Herb Bergson pointed out -- likewise are down. There were seven in 2001, the highest total this decade, one last year and one this year.
Even a serious-crime category seemingly on the rise may not be as frightening as the numbers would seem to indicate. Stabbings increased 90 percent, from 10 last year to 19 this year. But as many as five of this year's incidents are believed to have been committed by the same woman -- and she has been arrested, Ramsay reported.
If those numbers aren't illuminating enough, consider the stats in just western Duluth. From Lincoln Park/West End to Morgan Park to Fond du Lac, serious crime actually is the opposite of rampant: It's down nearly 21 percent. That includes a nearly 21 percent drop in burglaries, a 33.3 percent decrease in sexual assaults and a 17.4 percent decline in physical assaults. In addition, vehicle thefts have dropped nearly in half from 95 during the first seven months of 2006 to 55 through the end of July this year.
Credit for the decrease of wrongdoing in western Duluth can go to an increase in police presence; in particular, a new West Duluth police station that opened in March.
"The majority of our crime continues to be people who know each other or drug-related incidents or relative-related things," Ramsay said.
In other words, if no one in your life is a threat, you have little reason not to feel safe in Duluth. The numbers certainly bear that out.