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Monday, March 9, 2015

The 2014 numbers are in and unlike our friends in the corporate world, we are not measuring sales numbers, profits and margins. We are measuring crime.

Overall, we are pleased with the 2014 numbers. Keep in mind, we don't have a lot of crime here to begin with. As a result, a few more car thefts, robberies or burglaries can create a noticeable increase.

We frequently see one-person crime sprees that have a serious impact on our yearly totals. When I was in the juvenile bureau, I investigated one 17-year-old who committed at least 70 burglaries and stole 30 cars in a six-month period. That was 17 years ago and since then, he has been convicted of multiple other crimes.

Regardless, crime statistics are one performance measure we utilize heavily. Other performance measurements involve annual surveys, crash data, officer injuries, complaints, use of force and many more. What we measure and track, we benchmark and improve. Our three analysts track trends, criminals, patterns, problem addresses and other variables and disseminate that information to our staff.

Most department members watch and know what's going on and where. We know what is happening, so none of the stats are a surprise to us. We could probably attach names to the various crimes and staff could estimate how many that individual was responsible for. While we know who is committing the crimes, it isn't as easy as it looks on TV to gather enough evidence to prosecute them.
Four crimes we track closely are robberies, burglaries, auto theft and theft from autos, because they have a nexus to many other problems in our community. How about a quick quiz?

In one year there were 1,527 burglaries, the most since the Duluth police began keeping statistics in 1943. What year was it?
A. 2014
B. 2007
C. 1997
D. 1987
E. 1977

The answer is 1977, when there were 1,527 burglaries. Last year we had 504 burglaries, the fewest since 1960, when we had 465 reported. Keep in mind, Duluth has more households now than ever; they are just smaller.

Let's try another. What year had the highest number of auto thefts?
A. 2014
B. 2006
C.1996
D.1986
E.1976

The answer is 1976, with 663 auto thefts. Last year there were 161, the fewest since 1956, with 152.

The bottom line here is that we have hundreds fewer victims because we are reducing crime.
I realize many people don't feel as safe as they used to, which has more to do with decline in our neighborhoods and owner-occupied housing, 24/7 sensationalized crime news reporting and a host of other factors.

Our robberies reached their high from 2005 to 2009 when we didn't have a year with under 100. The last two years we've had 73 and 75, respectively.

We had 27 homicides between 1999 and 2003. From 2010 through today we've had nine. Duluth police officers are working hard to keep our community safe.

So while statistics are one measure of crime, the most important factor for those of us at Duluth Police Department is how safe people in our community feel. We recognize the perception and fear of crime is worse than crime itself.

We will continue to focus on prevention of crime and making people feel safe in our great city.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Social Workers and Police

We have been working with St. Louis County Social Services over the last year to improve our response to those in mental crisis.  Since 2007 our mental illness related calls have risen by more that 35%.  Two of our three homicides last year involved those with serious mental illness and an officer involved shooting involved a subject in crisis threatening with a knife.  Too often we are seeing individuals in suddenly acute mental crisis slip through the cracks and police are left dealing with them as the after hours social workers.  Unfortunately, a result of the lack of resources in this area, mentally ill are often cited or arrested and are brought to the county jail.  With proper treatment and care, these individuals would not be spending time in jail.  As I've said before, our jails are our mental hospitals of the past.       

St. Louis County board members will be considering a proposal next week to fund an embedded social worker to operate in the Duluth police department.  This position will review mental illness related police calls and ensure everything is being done quickly and efficiently to help those in crisis.  They will work hand in hand with our staff to swiftly address those in need of care for their illness. 

I believe this effort will help us reduce incarceration rates of those suffering from mental illness, reduce the amount of court resources involved in mental illness, reduce police time spent on mental illness related calls and help those who are in crisis.

We will continue our efforts related to mental health court, outreach and community intervention group and are excited about the prospects of having an embedded social worker.

Here is story on this effort by channel 21.  http://www.fox21online.com/news/local-news/duluth-police-to-add-social-worker-to-force/31347794

Friday, February 6, 2015

Over the last eight years, members of our department have worked to recruit and build citizen volunteers. Demands on police services continue to climb and our many community volunteers help us with everything from answering phones to traffic control at special events
While I often share stories about the good work our officers do in neighborhoods, I want to highlight two individuals who have had a tremendous impact on policing efforts. Last week, we recognized two of our most active citizen volunteers, Pam Kleinschmidt and Jerry Lawson.

Pam, to whom we fondly refer as the mayor of Lincoln Park, regularly staffs our Lincoln Park office and West Duluth Station, answering phones and assisting with walk-in traffic. She has been instrumental in helping us build relationships with residents and businesses in Lincoln Park. She organizes monthly meetings for citizens and makes sure their concerns are addressed.
Pam goes out of her way at her own expense, taking phone calls from concerned citizens at all hours of the day and night. She spends many hours each week keeping an eye on problem areas in her neighborhood and works with us to develop solutions.

Several years ago, we needed help managing seized cars used to commit crimes. Demands were pulling our staff in many different directions. We needed a mechanic, an accountant and a customer service representative. We were fortunate enough to find a multitalented individual, Jerry Lawson, who was able to fill all those needs. Jerry has been instrumental in the day operation of our vehicle impound lot and we truly could not manage it without him.
There isn't a job Jerry can't do. Additionally, he helped us establish the "Vial of Life" program, which provides medical information to first responders. He also helped expand and improve our citizen patrol program.

I was honored to present Jerry and Pam with Police Chief's Citizen Partnership Awards. I am grateful for all they do for our community and police department.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

An Initiative To Improve Our Response

I've written about the increase in mental illness related police calls and our efforts to collaborate with our community partners like homeless outreach, social services, public defenders, prosecutors and courts to improve our response.  Through partnering with others, we created a successful community intervention group (CIG) to deal with habitual offenders who often suffer from chemical dependency and mental illness.  These collaborative efforts are paying off with results, but there is still room for improvement.  Police officers are on the front line of helping those with mental illness in our community and we're often involved with complex issues that officers have little or no control over due to lack of available resources and the nature of our system.

Last year, I began talking with others about embedding a social worker in the police department to work closely with our staff and focus on people suffering from mental illness, severe chemical dependency and homelessness that our officers are dealing with daily.  The embedded social worker would  use their knowledge of the social service network, civil court system and appropriate treatment options to improve our response.

We are still in the design phase of this initiative and are searching for a funding stream.  It is my hope to have this effort up and running in the second half of the year. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Policing in 2015

The year 2015 will no doubt bring about continued focus on policing in a democratic society. When the dust settles, I hope we will see the return of federal funding for community policing initiatives.
My first community policing assignment in Duluth was funded through the federal "Weed and Seed" program. It focused on community policing as well as building strong neighborhoods through after-school youth and family programing. I recall when the funding began to dry up and Saturday youth activities were cut.

The very first Saturday after the programming was cut, several of the kids who were regulars at the youth center climbed onto the top of an apartment building and began tearing the roof off and throwing it down below. That sequence of events firmed my belief in the importance of having structured activities for kids, especially in underprivileged neighborhoods.

By 2000, the federal community policing money had almost dried up and was dealt another blow after 9/11. The federal government's focus changed from community policing to homeland security, and that is where the money went.

While the Duluth Police Department maintained its community policing focus, many departments in our country changed their policing philosophy in pursuit of funding, which is one of the reasons some departments are having problems today.

NBC reported the salary of police officers in the St. Louis, Mo., metropolitan area as low, including a wage of $10.50 an hour in the suburb of Hillsdale. How do you expect to get the best, brightest and highly educated workers willing to risk their lives for $10.50 per hour?

Additionally, Ferguson relies heavily on traffic fines to help balance their budget. Their revenue from court fines and forfeitures has tripled in the last 10 years, according to the online news outlet Quartz. This leads me to believe they were focused more on revenue generation than building relationships.
Community policing is more expensive than the traditional model of policing as it requires more staff. Unfortunately, the demands of police continue to grow. We have seen computer crimes rise as well as crimes against the vulnerable. Human trafficking is of growing concern. We log over 100,000 incidents a year, compared to 30,000 in the 1980s. I look at the political turmoil many communities face regarding their police departments and am thankful for the tremendous support given to our police department by Mayor Ness, City Council and citizens.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Year's Eve

I hopped in a squad car on New Year's Eve — as I have done for a number of years now — because I like to see what is going on in our city. I like watching our officers in action. That night I saw them consistently treating people with dignity, respect and compassion. They were helping victims, the vulnerable and those in need. They acted as guardians and protectors of our community and I am proud of their work.
The first few hours of the night were fairly typical for a night shift. A drunken driver drove off Central Entrance and into a wooded area before 9 p.m. A jealous ex-boyfriend called in a false report of the new boyfriend carrying a gun.
My last call of the night was a domestic fight call that began just before midnight. This deeply disturbing incident involved verbal, physical and likely sexual abuse of children. The evening had gone from a fairly fun time to that of the somber reality some kids in our community live with. This case was particularly bothersome because some adults were told of the potential abuse and chose to do nothing. The kids involved were sweet and innocent.
The next morning, I was still deeply bothered by the case. It was a reminder of the difficult situations our officers face on a daily basis. While I know social workers are now involved, I still wonder how the kids are doing and hope they are getting the help and resources they need to move on and be as healthy as they can be.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Policing Strategies Related to Witness Intimidation

Our staff is constantly striving to be the best we can be.  We have been part of a collaborative effort to improve our response to witness intimidation related to domestic violence.   Here is a link to an article on the effort
http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display&article_id=3579&issue_id=122014

Duluth PD continues to be a leader in policing......