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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Winter Weather

The weather lately has been anything but winter.  We've only had a three small snow events so far this season yet we saw a lot of car crashes.  As a matter of fact, each snow fall this year produced between 50 and 100 accidents in the City in less than a three hour period.  Most Duluthians take pride in our ability to navigate our steep streets covered in ice and snow with out smashing into cars or buildings, however this season I can't say we are doing very good.  Earlier this week a 19 year old died tragically in a crash on I-35 just south of the City limits.  Icy roads played a role.

Now that we are expecting more snow and ice tonight, take your time and slow down.  We've put extra staff on tonight to help with the call load and we don't want to see them tied up on unnecessary traffic crashes because people are driving too fast for conditions.  

Have a safe and happy New Year's eve.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Today

I spent some time at Neighborhood Youth Services located in Washington Center today.  Over 16 years ago, when I was a community officer the police department had an office in Washington Center and it was a hub of activity.  I got to know many of the kids who hung out there and built positive relationships with them.  Today, I heard several of the kids ask why there was a police officer there.  It made me realize we need to get our officers back in there building relationships with the kids.  One little six year old hid under a table when I arrived and told me he was scared of cops.  After a game of air hockey, laughing, joking and eating lunch together I asked him if he was still scared of cops and he shouted a resounding "no!"    That is a rewarding part of police work I really miss.

WDIO did a short story on NYS today.  Here is the link.   I could not direct link the story so look for "NYS block party" and click on that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Suspect Photos

When we run short on leads in a case we try to obtain photographs or video of the suspect.  Here is an example of a case where we need the public's help.   This press release was sent out to the media in an attempt to identify this crook.  The male in the photo is responsible for fraud and is ultimately costing all of us money through higher bank fees. 

You can sign up to receive police department press releases via e-mail click here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Department Jokers-Merry Christmas!

I won't mention the name of the sergeant on the department sent me this Christmas extravaganza that he put together (Ken Zwak), but it is funny.  The dancers are Deputy Chief Mike Tusken, East Area Commander Eric Rish and...ahem, me.

Watch these cops dance!

Guess we have to have a little fun now and then.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Police suffering from high rate of sleep disorders

I read this brief article in thecrimereport.org today and the findings are rather shocking (no author provided).   I hope it will encourage more research and recommendations.  For me, the older I became the more trouble I had sleeping after working a night shift (5pm-5am for a shift sergeant).  After age 30 when I worked nights I'd get headaches around 3:00 am and they often lasted most of the day.   Sleep issues are an aspect of police work that many don't think about... Our officers are out there keeping our City safe 24 hours a day.

40% of Police Officers Suffer Sleep Disorders: New Harvard Study

thecrimereport.org

A serious lack of sleep may be a big problem among the nation's 700,000 police officers, reports NPR. In what's believed to be the first study on the subject, Harvard researchers queried nearly 5,000 municipal and state police officers in the U.S. and Canada about their sleep habits and symptoms of possible sleep disorders, and assessed their on-duty performance for two years.
Forty percent had sleep disorders, and the vast majority were undiagnosed before. Those who screened positive for a sleep disorder had a 25 percent higher risk of expressing uncontrolled anger to a suspect or citizen, and a 35 percent higher chance of having a citizen complaint filed against them. Sleep-deprived officers had 51 percent greater odds of falling asleep while driving on duty. One in three officers has sleep apnea – waking up repeatedly because breathing has temporarily stopped. That's at least 8 times higher than the rate among the general population. Sleep-starved officers reported falling asleep at meetings more often and calling in sick. The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Urban Bears

This summer we had a bear wander downtown that quickly attracted a crowd of a few hundred people.  Police tried to disperse the onlookers, but apparently there was just too much interest in seeing a wild bear downtown.  The on scene supervisor decided to call for a veterinarian from the zoo to tranquilize the bruin rather than shoot and kill it.  No DNR officials were available at the time.

The vet arrived a short time later and the bear was successfully tranquilized and relocated with out incident.  We received a bill from the vet for about $600, which was expected.  Since wild animals fall under the purview of the DNR we sent them the bill requesting them to cover the costs.  I was surprised and disappointed when I received a response from the DNR that wild animals in the City limits are the police department's responsibility and we should shoot and kill the bears in the future - if we feel they are a safety concern.  Considering the DNR 2010-2011 budget was over $900 million dollars I thought the least they could do is help us out with the bill for dealing with a wild bear downtown. 

Now I have a lot of good friends who work at the DNR and know they work hard to serve the public. This isn't about the dedicated, hard working boots on the ground.  It is about money and resources.  In recent years the City of Duluth has had to manage a rapidly growing deer herd and an associated bow hunt.  That takes resources.  Park Pointer's pitched in and rented a bear trap this summer after the DNR refused to help them with a problem bear.  It now appears the City of Duluth is going to have to manage a growing urban bear population.  Given the drastic cuts to State revenue sharing (or local government aid-LGA), I thought the DNR would be more willing to help out local governments.  It is disappointing to have yet another burden placed on local governments that the State should be responsible for.  

What happened with the vet bill? We paid the vet for her services out of the police department's budget.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Police Camera Purchase

One of the first initiatives I had as police chief almost six years ago was to install video cameras in the squad cars.  The value we get from the cameras is  well known and established.  The initial cameras we purchased have reached the end of their life cycle.  These cameras get used 24 hours a day, every day of the year, they go from extreme heat in the summer, to extreme cold in the winter.  They get jarred around on our bumpy streets and have a life expectancy of five years.  We've had to cannibalize camera parts to keep them running and in a couple of cases recently, the cameras have not worked when they needed to.  The last thing we need is to have a major incident unfold that was not recorded due to an old system that no longer works properly. 

We've got our money's worth out of our first cameras, but it is time for us to begin the replacement cycle.  On Monday night's City Council agenda there is a resolution to allow us to purchase a new system called Mobile-Vision.  This system will have a camera in the car as well as an integrated camera the officer will wear.  When a camera is worn by an officer it can record what an officer may see and provide valuable, recorded evidence.  The value of an officer wearing a camera is obvious, but I am sure there will be benefits we have not even thought of.   We hope to have the Mobile-Vision system up and running in January.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The new joint public safety building is moving along right on schedule and is coming in substantially under budget.  We continue to meet with our partners at the Sheriff’s Office and expand our efforts in sharing services, people and equipment.   The idea of working closer with the County has gone from a possibility to a necessity given our financial state.   By sharing and working closely with the County we are leading the way in what may be the future of local government. We began sharing a grant coordinator a couple of years ago and have found this arrangement to be extremely beneficial to both entities.  We will be moving into our new building in February and will be announcing a date for an open house soon.  Here are some pictures of the building progress.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tragedy at Virginia Tech

I was saddened to see another tragedy at Virginia Tech, this time involving the assassination of 39 year old Police Officer Deriek Crouse.  This hard working officer was just doing his job when he was ambushed and shot at close range.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and co-workers. Unfortunately there are well over 100 police officers that die each year in the line of duty. I am particularly interested in this case because I am friends with the Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum.  I got to know Chief Flinchum when we attended the 10 week FBI Academy together in 2005.  He lived in the dorm across the hall from me.  Wendell is a good hearted man who is dedicated to keeping the employees and students at Virginia Tech safe.  Besides sending my sympathies, I wish there was something else I could do to help them through this senseless act.

Here is a brief radio story on the latest.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Politics and Policing

I read a letter to the editor in the Duluth News Tribune today where the writer asked why I "did not get off the bench and get into the game" and set up a tent in the Civic Center to support a political movement.  While I understand the writer's concerns, it is not my role to take on political issues such as this.  I believe the majority of our community members would agree with this assessment.

While there are times where a chief will have to lobby for or against a public safety related bill, I have discovered that most citizens appreciate a police chief who is apolitical, yet politically astute in their community policing efforts.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Suicide Awareness

In an effort to bring awareness to the pervasive problem of suicide, I want to highlight how frequently our officers are dealing with these sad situations, particularly during the holiday season. In our region suicides and suicide attempts seem to peak shortly after the holiday season.  Many people are surprised to hear attempted suicide calls are common for our officers to respond to; each year Duluth police respond to well over 400 suicide threat calls and average between 8 and 12 actual suicides.  
 
Most cops dread a suicide call because of the incomprehensible pain and emotions the loved ones and family members go through.  Investigating a suicide of a juvenile is particularly tough and no doubt these cases are branded in the minds of police officers.  Every police officer has these stories and no doubt are affected in some way by these tragedies. It is an aspect of police work citizens don’t think about.

One suicide I remember that stands out involved a 10 year old boy who returned home from school to find his mother (and only family member in the state) dead from a gun shot wound to the head.  He showed little emotion in the two hours I spent with him as he obviously was in shock and did not comprehend what had happened at that point.  It is two hours of my life I will never forget and I often wonder how the boy is doing.

We also remember those incidents where we have had opportunities to help someone prior to committing suicide.  I know officers often wonder if the intervention made a difference and hope those folks are now better.  Statistics from the National Institute for Mental Health show an estimated 11 nonfatal suicide attempts occur per every suicide death. Men and the elderly are more likely to have fatal attempts than women and youth.

There are lessons to be learned by looking at suicide cases to help us stop a family member or loved one from committing suicide.  If you come away with anything from reading this, remember to always take suicidal comments very seriously. When a person says that he or she is thinking about suicide, you must always take the threats as though the person will follow through.  It is a potentially disastrous error to assume the person making the comments has another motive. 

If someone you know talks of committing suicide and you are in doubt as to what to do, call 911. A police officer will respond and make the decision as to what is in the person’s best interest. Officers are trained in dealing with these situations and will handle them in a sensitive manner, ensuring that the person gets the immediate help they need.

 I’ve run across cases where someone has told a loved one to keep his or her suicidal intentions a secret.  That is a case where you should never keep that secret. Under no circumstances can you keep a "secret" that could cause someone's death. You are not violating any privacy rules; you are taking the steps necessary to prevent a suicide.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Synthetic Drug Enforcement

It appears other States are having trouble with their synthetic drug laws as well.  At last weeks Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association legislative meeting we discussed the need to strengthen our synthetic drug law-where sales of the stuff is only a gross misdemeanor. 

Here is an article on the State of Virginia's struggle with their law.

Here is a good video on synthetic issue that we face.  It provides a good overall background on how dangerous this can be for our society.  Parents, pay attention to this and discuss the concerns with your kids!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful (and continuing to be)

This year started out with the death of a good friend who I lived with at the FBI Academy with for 10 weeks in 2005.  He was only 44 years old and was a genuinely good person.  He had a big impact on me. He spent 22 years protecting the citizens of LA and had made a substantial difference in their Internal Affairs Unit under Chief Bratton.  I miss talking to him, but am thankful of his lessons and my memories of him.

One of my wife's uncles visited us in September.  He was a another good and giving person who I spent a fair amount of time with over the years.  He was easy to be around and had a sparkle in his eye that I will never forget.  He found out he had cancer in October and died just 8 days later. 

I heard a lecture the last week where the issue of death was discussed.  Particularly attention grabbing was a discussion on how we feel after the death of a close friend or family member.  Many of us make comments like, "I am going to be more thankful" or "I am not going to let the little things bother me and keep life in perspective."  Unfortunately, after a week or so we put those feelings back in the closet. 

It has been a rather busy fall around the PD and recently the other day when I was driving my daughter to pre-school I found myself tense while thinking about work. I had almost entirely tuned out my little four year old as she explained her upcoming holiday program and sang songs they would be singing.  I am not sure what snapped me out of it, but I realized what I was missing. I pulled over and asked her to sing a few more of her songs to me -which she did.

I will try and remember how quick life can change and particularly the importance of living in the moment, appreciating what we have today and helping others.  And not for just this Thanksgiving day. 

I hope you have a safe Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Movement

The Occupy movement has been interesting, yet challenging to deal with as police chief.  Group members truly believe in their cause and want things to change. Most of the members have been good to work with.  A few members are very challenging and feel that the only way to further their cause is to force confrontation and be arrested.  The unfortunate thing is the City has worked in earnest to get them compliant with City ordinances, but yet they do not appreciate that. 

Myself, other police chiefs and city officials around the country have found working with a "leaderless group" is difficult.   Some members of the group feel they have been misled by the police department.  While our message was consistent after we learned the plan was to make this a long term protest, we found that unless things were written down the message often got lost or misinterpreted.  I talked to two group members who were very understanding of the need to follow City ordinances, but these guys had just gotten involved in the last few days. 
 
I have been told by many group members about the problems of homelessness and how it needs to be a priority of government.  A few were surprised when I told them about our efforts in collaboration with CHUM and out reach workers to help find homeless supportive housing.  We have a couple of officers who spend a fair amount of their time on this effort as it reduces crime and increases the quality life for everyone.  They did not know Duluth was leading the way in this effort and has been awarded State grants based on our success. I discovered just as many of the group members think we don't know about their underlying reasons for protest, they don't know what the police department's efforts are to make this a better place for everyone.  Several of our initiatives surprised them and it made me realize we need to do more to let people know the police of today are a lot more than just crime prevention and arresting crooks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Penn State

I continue to be amazed at the people who were aware of Jerry Sandusky's sexual behavior with young boys and did nothing.  I do not understand how this could occur in this day and age.  Assistant football coach Mike McQueary's said he saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy and reported it to school officials.  Now he is claiming he notified police and stopped the assault.  While I am basing my comments on what I read in the news, there appears to be quite the cover up by Sandusky's colleagues.  I hope there are serious consequences for those who knew what was going on, yet did nothing.  And the fact he was released on unsecured bail after being charged with 40 counts of sex crimes against boys is outrageous.  My thoughts and prayers go out to those innocent victims of this pedophile.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Follow-up

I wanted to follow-up on the last post.  I mentioned the perception of crime is often driven by the media.  The perception of crime is often different from reality.  While my media friends may bristle at this, it is the truth.  Earlier this year we responded to a shooting in Lakeside where a guy claimed he was shot while trying to help someone.  Investigators were suspicious from the start.  However, the media coverage was intense.  I received calls from City Councilors and many Lakeside residents who were upset by this shooting and concerned for their safety.  Eventually, we charged the "victim" with several crimes after evidence showed he shot himself

While I realize violent crime needs reporting, how do we balance it with other news?  For instance, the Saturday night Taco John's robbery had headlines on at least one news station Saturday night, Sunday night, and was on again tonight.  The news should be that our commercial robberies are down significantly from years past.....However, crime sells (almost always garnering the most on-line hits) while less crime doesn't.

Maybe it's time to go back to talking about pumpkins and deer.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Crime, News and Perception

Yesterday officers responded to the report of a robbery and stabbing. A couple of news outlets found out about the call and were chasing it down.  Our Public Information Officer, Jim Hansen was called by the media and he requested they hold tight while he talked with investigators. Investigating officers found inconsistencies in the victim's story.  A review of video and the other evidence clearly indicated things did not happen as initially reported.  Investigators discovered the victim had a mental health history and had attempted suicide several times recently.  By the end of the day, investigators believed the stabbing was self inflicted and the robbery did not happen and they hooked the person up with mental health help.

Now consider if the media had covered the story based on what they heard on the scanner (and yes, this happens all too often).  The headline would be, "Person stabbed, robbed in Duluth."   I would say "here we go again."  Crime on the rise, fear for your safety, violent crime every where, run for the hills, would be the theme that many take from the story.  The reality, the crime did not happen.  The report was false and the person stabbed them self due to a mental health crisis.  In the past, when we have had similar type stories do you think the story is ever corrected?  No....The result; an increase in fear of crime.

I have to point out, there have been a fair amount of homicides this year in our area.  Superior, Virginia, Pine County, Sawyer County, and others have all had recent homicides.  How many homicides has Duluth had in 2011 to date?

ZERO

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pumpkin Vandal Case Solved

Last week my daughter and I spent a lot of time carving pumpkins.  When we were done we placed them on our front porch.  The next morning when I went to grab the newspaper I noticed a couple of them had been removed from the porch and broken in pieces in the front yard.  As I forensically examined them for evidence, I observed teeth marks all over the remnants of my masterpiece.   The vandal(s) was a white tail deer!  Probably the one I almost hit and honked at earlier in the day. Those scoundrels came right up on my porch, removed the pumpkins and proceeded to break it up and eat part of them.  I guess things are a little different now from when I was a kid.....Maybe I shouldn't complain and look at this as a good problem to have as a police chief.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Apprehended

As I've mentioned we have seen an increase in property crimes recently.  Car burglaries are up as well as daytime home burglaries.  Our staff have arrested some of our offenders this week.  An attentive officer caught a crook smashing the window of a car to grab the goods inside and our Property Crimes Unit  arrested a couple of burglars and mail thieves.

Stay tuned for sentences....

Car burglar picture and press release

Burglars and mail thieves press release.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Don't Become a Victim

I don't want to sound like a broken record, but we are continuing to see high number of car burglaries each week.  I took a quick look at some of the recent auto burglary reports and saw check books, purses, lap tops, tools, and book bags (to name a few) had been stolen from cars throughout the City.  Remember, this is a preventable crime.  Remove valuables from your car, report suspicious activity to 911.

Last year officers arrested about 70 individuals for breaking into cars.  They work hard to get these crooks off the street.  A staff member is pulling the arrest numbers for this year as well as reviewing their court imposed sentences for committing the crime.  I will post the findings when they are done in a couple of weeks.  

What do you think a first time car burglar receives for a sentence? 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Recidivism

In April the Pew Center on the States released an interesting study that found Minnesota had one of the highest criminal recidivism rates in the country. What is recidivism?  It is probably one of the most talked about topics at our weekly meetings where we review crime trends and crime that is occurring in the City.  Recidivism is defined by dictionary.com as “repeated or habitual relapse, as into crime.”  It is the repeat offenders who are committing the majority of our crime in Duluth.

While the validity of the Pew study has been argued by many Minnesota officials, your police will tell you we don’t know where we rank nationally, but we have a serious problem with habitual offenders.   It would be great to see the increased use of GPS monitoring, curfews and geographical restrictions in offender monitoring. The repeat offenders who are not sent to prison should have mandated curfews, geographical restrictions, and police officers on the street should be provided the offender information (I had this information at my finger tips in Wisconsin as a police officer almost 20 years ago-something we still don’t have in Minnesota).  If an officer finds them in violation they are authorized to bring them to jail.  Too often we find chronic offenders out and about at two in the morning in an area they should not be, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, only to find out days later they are on probation. 

Oregon had the greatest reduction in recidivism in the Pew study.  It found “Oregon also experienced the biggest decline in recidivism from 1999 to 2004, a drop of almost 32 percent. Oregon officials attribute their success to a comprehensive approach to reform and a commitment to change that reaches across all levels of government—from the supervision officer in the field, to the judiciary, through the state corrections department and up the ranks of legislative leadership.”

While police are usually the ones who receive the criticism when crime occurs, it is my hope the Pew study will encourage a dialog among our policy makers to improve our State’s response to repeat criminal offenders.  Minnesota’s response to repeat offenders simply needs to improve.  Let’s hope we can move beyond the budget debate soon and get on with improving our criminal justice system’s response to repeat offenders.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

GPS and Policing

I recently learned some police departments have invested in GPS monitoring systems and are placing them on habitual offenders (in conjunction with the courts) to reduce recidivism and crime.  Traditionally this has been a probation responsibility, but declining budgets and different focuses has brought police into the mix.  We will begin working with our criminal justice partners to aggressively be seek grants to fund our GPS efforts.

Those departments that are using GPS monitoring have had tremendous results.  I am hopeful we can bring this here to improve our habitual offender monitoring.  Stay tuned.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Guns and Car Burglaries

We've talked about it a lot the last couple of years.  Car burglaries are on the rise.  We continue to see people leave valuables in their cars which are then targets for crooks.  Lately, we've seen a number of cases where people leave their hunting guns in the car and are later stolen.  The last thing we need is more guns in the hands of bad guys.  Please don't leave valuables in your car.....

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Life

Two retired Duluth police officers died in the last week.  Former Deputy Chief Bob Larson and Investigator Skip Sorman.  Both these guys dedicated a good portion of their lives to keeping Duluth safe and were good police officers.  Both died from cancer.  God bless both of them and their loved ones.

My wife's uncle just found out today he has between one week and one month to live.  He had just visited us last month and we spent time together fishing and hanging out.  It is another reminder to keep everything in perspective.  I asked myself these questions earlier today;  What would you do if you had between one week and one month to live? Most importantly, what is the most important thing in your life?   This one is easy for me-my family.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Young Children and Accidents

Everyday I receive updates on important cases our staff have worked on.  Yesterday, I received notice of a one year old who ingested about 40 methadone tablets.  When officers arrived at the home the child was losing consciousness.  He was quickly transported to the hospital and was in critical condition yesterday.  Reading about the incident triggered some memories.

We have infant and toddler deaths all too often.  These deaths are caused by accident, natural causes or are the result of a homicide.  We've had a few infants accidentally suffocated by sleeping parents over the last year or two.  Last summer we had a 15 month old hang himself in a playpen after getting tangled in the blind strings that were dangling into the pen.  There's been a few accidental drownings.  I could go on...

I remember the first toddler death I was involved with vividly.  It was 1994 and I had been an officer for almost two years and until this thought I had seen a fair amount of tragedy in that short time.  This 911 call involved a 16 month old boy who went to sleep and never woke up. When his father went to check on him at midnight he had died.  Arriving second to a volunteer firefighter, I helped perform CPR unsuccessfully on the little guy. 

The next day my shift commander called me at home and told me since I had not yet attended an autopsy, I had to attend that of the little boy.  Watching the autopsy that day is something I will never forget.  I am glad I did not have kids at that time because, while this case was disturbing and very sad, I find with young kids of my own now I am much more bothered by child deaths. When each of my kids hit 16 months old they both had the fine hair and baby soft skin just like that little boy who died.  Needless to say I checked on my kids almost every hour, on the hour during their 16th month of life.  I guess that experience and five other baby/toddler death calls I've been on make me a little paranoid about some things.  

While there are some deaths we can't prevent, there are many more we can.  Nursing moms should not sleep with their infants.  Keep blind cords well above where kids can reach them.  Watch your young children at all times when they are the water.  Don't keep extra blankets and soft sleeping material in an infants crib.  Most importantly, have your infant sleep on their back

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Water Damage

On Friday a panicked evidence technician stopped me in the police department, said there was a water pipe break in the evidence room and asked if I had seen maintenance.  Evidence was potentially compromised and water was running everywhere.  The last 10-15 years staff has fashioned indoor gutters and designed other contraptions to keep leaky walls and ceilings from from damaging evidence.  A broken pipe was not suppose to happen.   In modern police departments evidence is kept in secure areas not affected by pipes or leaks.  I think most citizens know the challenges we have faced operating out of an 80 year old building.

Fortunately for us staff managed to save evidence before it was ruined and we are down to about three months before we move in to our new building.  To see the location and pictures of the new building click here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Job Offers

Tuesday and Wednesday this week myself and about a dozen other department members interviewed the final candidates for our next recruit class. The candidates have endured testing, interviews with community members and have progressed to the final phase. 

During last years hiring process almost all of the candidates had military experience.  During this process we did not have as many with military back grounds but, there were about eight who had been pastors or religious leaders at a church.  While there is usually one or two candidates with this connection in each process, I have never seen such a high percentage with religious backgrounds.   It is an interesting connection.

The 12 finalists now face medical screening and in-depth psychological screening before they they enter the academy.  Once in the academy they face 11 weeks of rigorous training before they can hit the streets.  After graduating from the academy they hit the streets in a training program that lasts up to six months before they are certified for solo patrol.   The entire process from the time of application to patrolling on their own takes about 14 months!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recognition for work well done.

Every day the members of the Duluth Police Department do incredible work that people never hear about.  I know about the great work they do because I see it all the time.  Look at the recent high profile cases our staff have solved.  We solve crime.  This year many organizations have recognized our department and staff for this reason.  Earlier this year arson investigator Todd Kuusisto was chosen by the Minnesota Arson Investigators Association as Arson Investigator of the year.  You only needs to look at the number of arson cases Todd has solved to understand he is a very talented arson investigator. 

Last month, Woodland Hills recognized the Duluth Police Department with their Baringer Exceptional Service Award. Deputy Chief Robin Roeser accepted this award on behalf of the department and we are honored to be recognized by such an important organization in our community. 

We received the Met Life Award for community policing and partnerships and were chosen out of over 700 applications.  The “Community Safety Initiative” involved Neighborhood Housing Services, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and West Duluth Development Corporation.  This recognition highlighted the important work our police staff does with our partnering organizations to keep Duluth a safe place to live and conduct business.  Together we have made a difference and it shows.

Last week the Duluth Police Department Sex Crimes, Abuse and
Neglect Unit (SCAN) received the 2011 Department of the Year Award at the annual meeting of the Minnesota Sex Crimes Investigators Association in Nisswa.
The Duluth SCAN Unit is comprised of Sgt. Ann Clancey, and Investigators Lisa Mickus, Chris Lofstuen and Ryan Temple.  They are responsible for investigating sexual assault, child abuse and child neglect cases. On average, the SCAN Unit is referred over 700 cases by St. Louis County Social Services, and conducts over 130 First Witness child interviews. The Unit works with partner agencies that include PAVSA (Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault), First Witness Resource Center and St. Louis County Social Services. Many of the cases investigated by the SCAN Unit involve victims under the age of 13. The Unit handles nearly 75 cases of sexual assault on average.  The goal of the SCAN Unit is to provide a victim-centered approach to sexual assault investigation, while working with partner agencies to form a multi-disciplinary response for victims.  We are proud to showcase the dedicated Investigators of the SCAN Unit as one of Minnesota’s best.

These awards are a direct result of the dedication and good work the members of the Duluth Police Department do 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

I am grateful for the opportunity to lead such dedicated, hard working and good hearted people.

Monday, October 10, 2011

College Parties

Now that we are well into the school year I wanted to touch base on our community policing efforts regarding college parties.  As UMD grew so did the number of college parties.  Beginning in the 1990’s college parties began to take up more and more police resources.  As we rolled into the 2000’s it became common that there were so many reported parties that officers frequently were not able to get to all of them.  Five years ago the college parties and neighborhood problems were receiving a lot of media attention and it began to reflect poorly on our City.  Neighbors were frustrated, police were frustrated and things only seemed to be getting worse.  Through hard work and collaboration we have had tremendous success in reducing the number of party calls in our college neighborhoods over the last few years.  An effective and strong partnership with UMD, new and tougher housing ordinances, landlord e-mail notification, improved resource allocation, effective enforcement and follow-up the number of party calls have plummeted.  During September 2007 we responded to 124 party calls in neighborhoods around UMD.  During the first four weeks of college this year we responded to just 61 party calls.  That is over a 50% reduction in party calls.  A special thanks to UMD, the Campus Neighbors Group, our hard working officers, Lieutenant Eric Rish, and all the others who have worked in collaboration with us to reduce parties and improve our great neighborhoods. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Drug Arrests

Last week the department rounded up almost 30 suspects involved in illegal prescription drug sales.  The ATF is working with us on having the case federally prosecuted due to the volume of sales, guns involved, and long criminal hostories of many of the suspects.  As I read the names of those arrested I recognized many of them as habitual offenders - for years.  With the ATF and US Attorney involved we know there will be some long sentences coming down on them.  Bad guys + their guns arrested = a safer community.  Good work to our drug unit, ATF and the US Attorney's Office.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Party Calls and Fires

Over the last four years police staff have made a concerted effort to reduce the number of disturbances associated with college parties in the eastern neighborhoods.  Through education, landlord notification, tough enforcement, increased penalties, new ordinances and collaborating with UMD we have seen a substantial drop in the number college parties.  911 calls and police records indicate we are receiving almost 50% less party calls than we were in 2007.   That is tremendous statistic to report.  Our officers have worked  diligently to make a difference and it shows. 

On another note, there were a couple of arson fires over the weekend.  Most notably the brand new playground at Lester Park Elementary was burned to the ground.  The neighborhood has been shaken by this senseless act-with a price tag of upwards of $50,000.  I am confident arson investigators will solve this crime in short order as they have some strong leads they are following up on. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Burglaries

We are following an increase in burglaries in the the East End, Endion and Congdon neighborhoods. They are occurring during day light hours when the resident's are gone.  We have received good suspect information and have increased presence in those neighborhoods, but our best defense is you.  Report suspicious activity to 911.  We apprehended a few burglars last year who were hitting homes in the country and on the out-skirts of the City with an interesting scheme.  They would send a woman to the door while the men hid in the car.  If someone would answer the door she would ask if "Joe is home?" and would leave.  If no one would answer she would summon the other crooks out of the car and they would kick in a door and help themselves to what they wanted.  This is a fairly common trick, so if you have someone coming to your door asking a question that seems a bit odd we would always recommend a 911 call than not.  Also, be sure to get the license plate and good description of any vehicle they may drive (a photo is always great as well).

While burglaries are down from years past, we must continue to remain vigilant and push for stronger sentences for our chronic offenders.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Topic of Conversation

I have had more conversations on the topic of weather over the last two days than I can remember.   We are talking weather because we know as the number of hours of sunshine shrink each day, the 60 and 70 degree days are severely numbered. One thing about living in Duluth is you learn to appreciate a nice day.  The last two days I have seen many people almost giddy with how great the weather is.  And of course, it is all we are talking about. 

A friend who grew up in Duluth told me a story recently that when she was attending college in New York City, a fellow student commented that she talked about the weather a lot and asked if she was studying meteorology.  She wasn't studying meteorology-she's from Duluth and Duluthians talk about the weather - a lot....That was the best story I have heard in a long time.  I like it so much I have already borrowed it a few times.  It has received a lot of laughs-especially the last couple of days when everyone is talking about the weather.

I'll talk about the weather any time.  It sure beats talking about crime and the problems we face.....

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hiring Time

We delayed hiring new officers this year (to replace those who have retired).  We had another wave of officers leave and we find ourselves about 12 short.  We did not hire sooner in order to see where the City and State budget would end up.  Running 12 officers short takes a toll.  Our community policing efforts have been negatively impacted, our property crimes investigations have been hurt, and our folks are burning out.  There is hope on the horizon though.  We were authorized last month to fill our vacancies and are in the process of hiring new officers. 

About 250 people took our written test in August.  Another 70 or so interviewed with staff and community members earlier this month and now we are conducting background checks on about 30 finalists.   Backgrounds are probably the most crucial part in the hiring process.  We dig and dig to find out the character, work ethic, and personality of the candidate.  We frequently contact neighbors, past employers, old boyfriends and girlfriends, check credit history, and leave no stone unturned.  Additionally, in depth psychological testing is conducted. 

We view the first working year of the officer an extension of the hiring process.  They attend the 10 week Duluth Police Academy and then go through extensive training lasting another six months.  We closely watch the quality of their work, work ethic, communication and problem solving skills to determine if they are a good fit for our community.  About 10-20% of new hires do not make it past their first year.

We anticipate the new officers will be starting in November and will hit the streets later in the winter.  We'll be sure to highlight the new officers when they begin.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Repeat Calls

Every Monday morning command staff at the police department receive addresses of those who had three or more police calls during the previous week.  Listed along with the address is the call type, such as disturbance, theft, loud party, etc.  The expectation is that the following week the addresses generating the police calls will not be on the list - or someone has some explaining to do.  The majority of the time property managers want to improve their property and work with us to reduce the need for police response (also know as crime prevention).  There are a few property owners though who just don't get it.  Thus the need for ordinances that allow the police to bill a property owner for officer time or the option of revoking a rental license of a problem property. 

If you are having problems in your neighborhood and would like to some help dealing with disturbances, junk on the property etc. contact your community officer and work with them toward a solution.  Click here to see contact information for officers who can work with you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Synthetic Drug Concerns

Synthetic drugs are quickly becoming a major local and national concern.   I've run into a few folks who are using synthetic drugs and they could be on the poster as to why this is bad stuff.  Police officers are dealing with the drugs and users more and more frequently.  Medical officials are not sure what long term health issues synthetic drug users will face, but no doubt there will be consequences. I can already see the side effects of these drugs in the people who are using.  Like the police, local hospitals are reporting an increase in patients who are using synthetics. I have grave concerns for people who start using this stuff. There has been a run on the topic lately in the media.  The Star Tribune has done the best job of highlighting the problem.    Star Tribune series on synthetic drugs  

Friday, September 16, 2011

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We continue to see car burglaries increase accross the city.   Report suspicious activity to 911and remove valuables from your car.  This crime is 100% preventable.  Support us when we go to the legislature to seek increased penalties for auto burglary this legislative session.  Here is information from this weeks compstat report. Sorry about the colors-It is not letting me change them.
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47 car prowls reported in the last week.  39 week prior, 33 two weeks ago. ž25 were East, 22 West. 
§Several seem to be centered around 23rd Ave W and 5-6th street.
§2 reported this week on Park Point.
§1 was interrupted west involving a heavier w/m 30-40 yo.
§09/07 @ 0107, Officers caught Vance William St. Clair 03/13/90 hiding under a car in the lot of the Incline Station at 601 W Superior St.  Found that St. Clair had entered at least one vehicle and had attempted to steal it, column and dash damaged.  St. Clair to Jail for Attempted Motor Vehicle Theft, DAMP and Tampering w/Motor Vehicle

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sharing Resources to Save Tax Payer Money and Improve Service

You may have heard area police agencies have banded together to create the Lake Superior Forensic Technology and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.  With the dramatic increase in the use of smart phones and personal computers in crimes, police are finding a growing need to increase our ability to use forensic investigative techniques to solve crime.  Thanks to the leadership of Superior Police Floyd Peters, we have joined resources in an effort to expand our capabilities and save money.  This is the first task force of it's kind in the mid-west.  This group is on the cutting edge of the latest in techniques and utilizes the newest technology.   Superior PD was recently awarded a major grant from the COPS Office which will provided addiotnal funding to Duluth PD as well.  I pasted an article written last in the Superior Evening Telegram.

Grant targets sex predators
Shelley Nelson - 09/07/2011
Superior Telegram

Cooperation is paying off for law enforcement agencies in the region. The Superior Police Department is one of 20 law enforcement agencies in the nation granted nearly half-a-million dollars to help combat Internet crimes against children — specifically sexual predators that target children. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Orienting Policing Services grant supports the Lake Superior Forensic Technology and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force The task force includes investigators from the Duluth and Superior police departments, and Douglas and St. Louis counties sheriff’s departments. “Being able to share some funding with our partners now is really important — it’s huge,” said Superior Police Chief Floyd Peters. Grant funding will help pay the cost of an additional investigator in the Superior Police Department, and defray costs for investigators from the Duluth Police Department and St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department for two years. “It doesn’t fully fund the Duluth investigator or the St. Louis County investigator, but it certainly helps them,” Peters said. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department detective working with the task force is funded for three years through a $500,000 appropriation secured last year by Congressman Dave Obey, the chief said. “It was recognized that what we’re doing is important and valuable, is really a model for Wisconsin and Minnesota,” Peters said. The grant funding adds $499,852 to that initial funding to support operations, equipment and training for task force members. “It’s a fully funded grant and we believe that the strength of our application — several things — made us a strong task force to be considered,” Peters said. The task force includes law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin and Minnesota working together under agreements adopted late last year, but its mission includes assisting smaller law enforcement agencies with investigations and proactive policing that affects those jurisdictions. Superior Police Sergeant and task force commander Nick Alexander said the police department receives requests almost weekly for task force services from smaller law enforcement agencies throughout the greater region. The area the task for covers includes most of the 8th Congressional District in Minnesota and 7th Congressional District in Wisconsin, said Superior Police Capt. Chad La Lor, who collaborated with Duluth and Superior police to submit the successful application. “The equipment is expensive,” Alexander said. “The training is very expensive. It probably isn’t cost effective for a lot of these smaller agencies to try to absorb those expenses for one to two cases per year when we can have more like a hub here that has trained and experienced investigators.” Of the 126 law enforcement agencies nominated to apply, 105 applications were accepted, and only 20 agencies in 12 states received funding this year. The Superior Police Department, the smallest police department funded, was nominated to apply by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Wisconsin. “We’re the only agency in the Midwest that was funded,” La Lor said. While the North Dakota Office of the Attorney General was selected to receive $500,000 in funding, most of the agencies to receive the grant this year are on the east and west coasts and in the south. “As opposed to ‘here’s our vision; we think this can work’ we’re able to show ‘here was our vision and our vision is already actually rolling,’” La Lor said. Since its full inception earlier this year, Alexander said the task force has processed 100 cell phones and about 58 computers and large storage devices. The task force was involved in the investigation of Timothy Urbanski, a 47-year-old Bayview Courts resident, accused of possessing child pornography. The case was uncovered when the mother of a 7-year-old girl who received the phone allegedly from Urbanski, searched the images on the phone and found what appeared to be child pornography. The girl’s mother turned the phone into the Superior Police Department, launching the investigation into a case that is growing, Peters said. “This funding will assist in the fight against unfathomable crimes,” said COPS Director Bernard K. Melekian in a prepared grant announcement. “The agencies recognized this year have worked in great cohesion with federal offices and local law enforcement stakeholders, developing aggressive strategies to combat crimes against children.”

There have been a few changes to our community policing officers over the last couple of months that I wanted to share.  Officer Joe Miketin has replaced Officer Shawn McGovern from West Duluth to the Zoo area. Thanks to Shawn for his service to the residents and businesses of West Duluth.  Shawn was instrumental in our implementation of the Crime Free-Multi-Family Housing ordinance. Officer Miketin can be reached at jmiketin@duluthmn.gov or 218-730-5742.

Officer Jason McClure replaced Officer Barry Midthun in the Central Hillside and Observation neighborhoods. Barry retired from the police department in July and is pursing his entrepreneurial dreams.  Barry was one of a kind and is greatly missed. Our thanks go to Barry for his years of service to the citizens of Duluth.  Officer McClure can be reached at jmcclure@duluthmn.gov or 218-730-5518.

To view all community police officer contacts click on this link http://www.duluthmn.gov/police/community_officers.cfm

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Internet car buying scams trick many

I have pasted a news story below that highlights the ever increasing issues with internet fraud related to automobile purchases.  Several years ago I had two different friends fall victim to deals to good to be true that involved wiring money to England.  Both thought their money was secure until they released it, but found out someone created counterfeit identifications and released the money without the knowledge of my friend.  One lost a few thousand and the other about six thousand dollars. 
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Between 2008 and 2010 there have been almost 14,000 complaints from consumers who have been victimized by online auto-buying scams. Victims report losing nearly $44.5 million, the FBI reports.
The FBI describes the scam:
"Consumers find a vehicle they like -- often at a below-market price -- on a legitimate website. The buyer contacts the seller, usually through an email address in the ad, to indicate their interest. The seller responds via email, often with a hard-luck story about why they want to sell the vehicle and at such a good price.
"In the email, the seller asks the buyer to move the transaction to the website of another online company ... for security reasons and then offers a buyer-protection plan in the name of a major Internet company such as AutoTrader.com, Craigslist or eBay. Through the new website, the buyer receives an invoice and is instructed to wire the funds for the vehicle to an account somewhere. In a new twist, sometimes the criminals pose as company representatives in a live chat to answer questions from buyers.
"Once the funds are wired, the buyer may be asked by the seller to fax a receipt to show that the transaction has taken place. And then the seller and buyer agree upon a time for the delivery of the vehicle.
"Typically the ad the consumer sees is either completely phony or was hijacked from another website. The buyer is asked to move from a legitimate website to a spoofed website, where it's easier for the criminal to conduct business. The buyer protection plan offered as part of the deal is bogus. And the buyer is asked to fax the seller proof of the transaction so the crooks know when the funds are available for stealing.
"And by the time buyers realize they've been scammed, the criminals -- and the money -- are long gone."
The FBI said consumers should be alert for red flags including:
  • Cars are advertised at too-good-to-be true prices;
  • Sellers want to move transactions from the original website to another site;
  • Sellers claim that a buyer protection program offered by a major Internet company covers an auto transaction conducted outside that company's website;
  • Sellers refuse to meet in person or allow potential buyers to inspect the car ahead of time;
  • Sellers who say they want to sell the car because they're in the U.S. military about to be deployed, are moving, the car belonged to someone who recently died, or a similar story;
  • Sellers who ask for funds to be wired ahead of time.
If you believe you have been the victim of an online scam;
  • Close your account immediately
  • Set up a fraud alert with the 3 national consumer agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion)
  • Contact your local law enforcement agency and file a police report
  • Watch your credit reports closely
  • Look for odd things in the mail such as credit card applications and bills for items you did not personally purchase
Written by Michael Cooney, Network World

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Here we go!

Thanks for checking out my first blog.  For those of you wondering why I chose "squad one" as my URL, it is because this is my squad number (or my handle for you that are familiar with CB vanacular) on the police radio. 

In this blog I want to highlight current topics that affect policing and public safety in Duluth. 

I wanted to pass along a good article I read about bath salts in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  We are seeing an increase in usage among all ages and have grave concerns about the associated health and behavioral hazards.  This article gives a good overview of the problem and the dangers associated with it's use.
http://www.startribune.com/local/129189483.html