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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Good People

102 East First Street is currently the home of the Skinner apartments and owned by Center City Housing of Duluth.  It is also the location of Friday's homicide. This building has been many things over the years including a bar.  From the mid-1990's until the mid 2000's this location was a hot bed of criminal activity. I spent many hours there on police calls. 

Around 2005 a new manager of City Center Housing took over and has done phenomenal work with the property.  Police calls went from hundreds a year down to a handful.  The reduction in crime and police calls associated with this building highlight the value and importance of good property managers.  Since this was our first homicide since 2010, I imagine there will be a fair amount of media attention on this case and this building.  Good people live there and I hope this tragedy will not reflect negatively on them. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Police Officer of the Year

Congratulations to Sergeant Brad Wick for being named the 2012 Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association's Officer of the Year.  This is an award that is not given out every year and is reserved only for those cases where an officer goes above and beyond the line of duty.  Sergeant Wick was involved in apprehending a robbery and car jacking suspect.  The suspect forced his way into a young woman's home in Gary New-Duluth and shot her in the leg.  The suspect then proceeded to shoot at Sgt. Wick who put himself in the line of fire to shoot and kill the suspect-likely saving the young woman's life. 

Prior to becoming a police officer, Sgt. Wick was one of those who would take the time and interest to talk me and was influential on me becoming a Duluth police officer.   He is one of a kind and a person I have a lot of admiration for.  This award is incredibly well deserved for a police officer who is a true class act. 

**Patrol Deputy Chief Mike Tusken on the left side of the photo, Sgt. Wick in the middle, Lieutenant Jeff Kazel to the right and Investigations Deputy Chief Robin Roeser at the far right.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Group Homes

I have not written about group homes, but know we monitor calls for service at these closely.  80% are well run and 20% are not.  I have a couple of group homes in my neighborhood and they fit in the 20% category. They are poorly managed in many aspects.  The properties are not maintained.  One has brush piles and other junk in the yard.  The other desperately needs paint and the manager needs to be more considerate of his neighbors in yard care and general exterior cleanliness.  The tenants at the second one I mentioned also frequently disturb the neighbors.  Not too long ago a tenant stabbed a care taker in the head with a pair of scissors.  There are more stories that I won't go into now.  Here is a DNT article posted tonight that makes me believe their needs to be more oversight given the growing number of group homes in our neighborhoods......


6-9, 300-pound Pine City man charged with sexually assaulting two group-home staffers

Chad Phillip Johansen, 36, who was on supervised release from Ramsey County, was charged today with seven felonies for allegedly sexually assaulting two staff members in the Pine City group home he was staying at under court order.
By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune
A Pine City man on supervised release from Ramsey County was charged today with seven felonies for allegedly sexually assaulting two staff members in the Pine City group home he was staying at under court order.
Chad Phillip Johansen, 36, is charged with one count of kidnapping, two counts of attempted first-degree sexual conduct and four counts of second-degree sexual conduct.

According to court documents, Tuesday night Johansen put zip ties on his bed and took the purse of a female staff member and dumped it onto the floor in the hallway near his room. When the woman noticed her purse on the floor she called Johansen over to ask him why it was there.

Johansen, who stands 6 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 300 pounds, grabbed her arm and dragged her into his bedroom where he began sexually assaulting her, trying to put the zip ties on her wrists.

When a second female staff member tried to intervene, Johansen grabbed the second female by the neck and held her between his legs like a scissor. As he sexually assaulted both victims they screamed at Johansen that he was going to go to prison, to which he stated, “I don’t really care.”

When one of the victims screamed something about “Jesus,” Johansen stopped, calmed down, and went into the living room. The victims called 911, and deputies arrested Johansen in the living room without incident.

The victims received treatment for their injuries at a local hospital and were released

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Three Chiefs

Last night the police union held a retirement event for recent retirees.  Other than funerals it is rare to see chiefs in the same place at the same time.  Former chiefs Eli Miletich (middle) Scott Lyons (left) and I attended the event.  We snapped a quick picture to memorialize the rare moment.  Former chief Miletich began with Duluth PD in 1958 and was chief from 1982-1992.  Scott Lyons began with Duluth PD in 1976 and served as chief from 1992-2003 and I was appointed chief in 2006. That's about 27 or 28 years of DPD chiefing. No doubt there is some good, bad and sad stories in those years.  Chief Miletich wrote a book on his time at DPD.   Roger Waller served as chief from 2003-2006,but did not attend the event.

There were many other retirees at the event and it was great to hear the stories and see everyone.  Duluth PD has an interesting and long history.  I would like to find a way to capture it before it is gone forever. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Recognition for a job well done

Unfortunately, the wonderful work our officers do on a daily basis seldom gets recognized.  Fortunately for me, I get to see their good work first hand.  We have an incredible group of 185 hard working and compassionate people that serve this City as members of this department. Here is an email from a citizen that is highly complimentary of one of our officers.  Fortunately, I receive correspondence like this on a regular basis.  It means a lot to those mentioned and me, as the chief.

04/19/2012 9:28:58 PM

Dear Chief Ramsay,
I am writing to comment on an encounter I had tonight with Officer Nevanen. You should be incredibly proud of this officer's professionalism, compassion, and decorum. He was dealing with a native american woman that I've mentored since she was in my sixth grade class. This young woman was intoxicated and completely distraught that the father of her children had taken them without her permission to another place for the night. He obviously had the right to do so as he is their father. The young woman wanted her children back and Officer Nevanen was willing to bring her to my house to find a suitable place for her to stay as she is homeless and the chum shelter would not take her in because of her intoxication. Officer Nevanen was incredibly patient and tollerant as the young woman carried on about the police and the father of her children. Officer Nevanen was willing to take her to her grandmother's house and willing to talk to the grandmother on the phone. He was determined that in her vulnerable state she would not spend the night on the streets. He treated her with dignity and the utmost respect. I am sure this kind of drama and unfortunate circumstance is very wearing on an officer in their day to day work. People make poor choices for many reasons but are less than willing or able to assume the responsiblity for their actions. I was very grateful to Officer Nevanen for his kind treatment of this woman. He is an excellent example of the compassion and fair treatment that people of color sometimes don't encounter. He is in my estimation, the prime example of what a police officer should be.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Update on Stats

At today's compstat meeting we reviewed the usual topics.  I wanted to share a couple of current items.  Good news first, robberies are down a fair amount.  Auto burglaries down slightly, but an uptick this week (this is a crime we can prevent by removing valuables) throughout the City.  Auto theft is down slightly.  Bad news, residential burglaries are still up substantially.  The East Hillside is still getting hard hit.  If we can keep our habitual offenders locked up or GPS monitored we feel we could turn these numbers around.  More arrests of habituals will be happening very soon.  We've had a rash of stabbings in the last couple of weeks.  All players know each other and we've made arrests in all cases. These are not cases of strangers being assaulted and cut.  Most involve friends, lovers, or acquaintances and are fueled by drugs and alcohol. 

Advice for neighbors based on this?  I would say keep in mind the upward burglary trend, particularly from Sixth Avenue East to Congdon.  Keep an eye out for suspicious activity and do not hesitate to call 911.  Talk with your neighbors about this and look out for each other's property. Most of the burglaries are happening during the day, but we are seeing a few at night.
Auto burglary-simple, don't keep valuables in your car.  Watch out for folks looking into cars and call 911 if you see that activity.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


We are excited to announce the “iWatchDuluth” program. It will be going
“live” in Duluth on Thursday, April 19th 2012. iWatchDuluth is a free mobile application that allows citizens to turn in crime tips, images and videos about crimes or suspicious activity directly to law enforcement from almost any mobile phone or computer. Now you can send tips anonymously, securely and easily.

Android, Apple and soon on Blackberry smartphones can be used—application is available for 94% of devices used by 85 million citizens. This helps foster community awareness about suspicious or criminal activities. Currently there are 300 million mobile devices in use, expected to be 7.2 billion by 2015.

We can't solve crime with out your help.

You can check out the website at

“If you See Something….Say Something……iWatchDuluth…..Do You?”

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

You Can't Make This Up!

After arresting a couple of serial burglars in the last few weeks we thought we would see a noticeable decrease in burglaries.   Well, we didn't, however through good police work there was a common thread in some of the most recent burglaries-they were driven to the airport by a taxi and they probably told the driver more than they should have.  When property crime investigators looked into the taxi driver, they found a very, very familiar name - Michael Peters.

If Peters sounds and looks familiar, he should be.  He was the News-Tribune delivery man who was burglarizing homes of subscribers who were stopped their delivery when they were out of town.  Here is a story from May 3, 2011

He was arrested for those burglaries and while he was out on bail for that he committed more burglaries.   So, he was suppose to be sentenced for those crimes and he is out committing even more.

This is yet another example of where a simple GPS ankle bracelet would have made the difference.  Here is today's press release.

Here was a great story on how GPS monitoring could help (I mentioned this before but, the need seems to be greater than ever).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Precious metals ordinance will help reduce burglaries

A quick review of the crimes that increased last year indicated property crimes are a growing area of concern.  Specifically, residential burglaries were up substantially.  With a key element of our mission being that of solving problems and reducing crime, staff began to look at new and innovative ways to reverse our upward burglary trend.  We found in recent years burglars were looking specifically for precious metal items (most often jewelry, silverware, etc).  With this information at hand, our Property Crimes Unit sergeant, Chad Nagorski, began to look at best practices across the country for addressing burglaries targeting precious metals.  Sgt. Nagorski found more and more cities were turning to legislation that addressed the private sales of precious metals and created an ordinance.  We notified affected stores last year and met with these businesses earlier this winter to obtain their thoughts and concerns on the proposed ordinance.  As a result of feedback from businesses obtained during these meetings, several changes were made to the proposed ordinance. 
The precious metals ordinance simply requires the buyer of the goods to obtain identification of the seller and register the items in a data base (a pawn shop data base) which will allow investigators to search for items taken via a data base at their finger tips.  I am confident that through innovative initiatives like this, we will make a difference in the number of burglaries we investigate each year.   We also know several area cities are also interesting in this approach. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Being the chief of police has made me a little superstitious.  I may have jinxed our downward violent crime trend after speaking to friends at a downtown. Kiwanis meeting on the 21st of March.  I discussed how our violent crime was way down and shared some examples I was proud of.  I talked how last year we had only a handful of commercial robberies.  Well….the next day Gary Liquor was robbed at knife point.  Since the Kiwanis meeting we’ve had a few minor knife assaults (almost more than we had all of last year).   Shootings?  Last year?  Since Kiwanis, one.  It reminded me of a time a few years ago where I told the Mayor on warm July day that so far that year we had not had a….Well, maybe I’ll just keep quiet.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Property Crimes

As I have mentioned previously, we have taken a hit in the burglary arena.  On Friday and Saturday we arrested two independent burglars who are likely responsible for a good portion of our burglaries.  One person can run up our burglary numbers pretty fast.  These two habitual offenders would be great to utilize GPS monitoring on with geographical restrictions and curfews! 

Fairbanks has already bailed out of jail for only $800.  In 2009, Fairbanks was charged with three different crimes. In November we arrested Fairbanks for burglarizing a home just one day after he was sentenced for two other crimes — burglary and criminal damage to property. 

Here are the press releases.

Fairbanks arrest
Baker arrest

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Synthetic Bill Moves Forward

Yesterday the Minnesota Senate unanimously voted to pass their version of the synthetic drug bill.  Our gratitude goes to Senator's Reniert and Newman (Hutchinson) for sponsoring this bill.  There apparently is one minor difference in the House and Senate bill that will require it to go to a committee for resolution.  If all goes well the bill will go into effect Aug 1. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Same Names...

The burglary chase that occurred Friday around 26th Avenue East received a fair amount of media play because the suspect jumped into Lake Superior's 35 degree water.  Experts say you would be lucky to survive about 10 minutes if you were left on your own.  The crook showed he had some sense and swam back to shore and required no medical attention.  This guy deserves some time in a cell block to think about his actions.  We had put a burglary alert out to East Hillsiders a week ago due to a noticeable increase in that area.  We will be releasing more information this week, but the suspect in this case is far from a first timer and he is connected to names you've heard from us before.  Same names. Same crimes. Over and over.