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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

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.
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 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 or 218-730-5518.

To view all community police officer contacts click on this link

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. 
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, 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.