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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Surveys and Policing in Duluth

We recently received, and thoroughly reviewed, the results from the annual Citizen Survey. The City of Duluth website ( summarizes, "Residents give Duluth high marks and show satisfaction in the general direction the city is heading. Survey results demonstrate improvements in several areas, including 83 percent of residents polled approving of the city's overall quality of life. That is the highest result in that category since polling began in 2009, when overall quality of life polled only 68 percent. The overall image of the city is also at its highest results now at 78 percent, up from 58 percent in 2009. Eighty-five percent of residents say Duluth is a great place to live, up from 78 percent in 2009."
From my perspective, I noted 93 percent of the survey respondents rated contact with the police as excellent, good or fair in 2014. The number of people feeling safe in their home rose from 89 percent last year to 92 percent this year. One area of focus is our effort downtown. Those who felt safe downtown rose this year to 73 percent, compared to 64 percent last year. Drunkenness, panhandling and disorder are what primarily drive the perception downtown. Overall 95 percent of those surveyed feel safe in Duluth.

The police department uses the survey results as part of our performance measures, operational benchmarks and strategic planning. Our 2014 and 2015 priorities focus on community policing, which includes expanding block clubs, neighborhood watches and citizen patrols. Additionally our outreach to neighborhoods focusing on crime prevention and collaboration to solve problems together continues to be a priority. Our Comm-U-nity CompStat (computer statistics) meetings that began in Lincoln Park last year recently were expanded to include the Central Hillside. Meeting and building relationships with residents is what we want.

We also continue to focus on building relationships with our youth. The Duluth Police Activities League (D-PAL) began earlier this year and focuses on sports and other activities that provide a positive venue for kids and officers to spend time together. So far D-PAL activities have been a great success and we look forward to seeing it grow.

We hosted two Cops, Kids and Cars events this summer that were huge hits. This is another example where our staff and community members can meet to discuss neighborhood issues, current events or the latest with the Twins or Vikings.

One of our other major areas of focus has been crime prevention, because that is the most important aspect of policing. The most common crime in Duluth is property theft. Whether a car burglary or a theft from a garage, we know many of these crimes can be prevented. Keep your items locked up and out of view and, most importantly, call 911 if you witness suspicious behavior.

With your help, we can keep Duluth a great place to live and make it even safer. If you have any interest in being a part of a Block Club, Neighborhood Watch, Citizen Patrol or having an officer attend a neighborhood meeting at your home, please give my office a call and we will set it up.

**News Tribune Photo-Clint Austin**

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Body Cameras and Privacy Concerns

I testified before a legislative committee yesterday in St. Paul on the need to update our privacy laws related to police body cameras.  In many cases police video recordings are considered public; even in some one's residence or while recording someone during one of the worst points of their life.  This simply should not be considered public data; which was the purpose of my testimony.  Our current data privacy laws need to be updated to reflect changing technology. 

During my testimony I was surprised when one legislator asked why I didn't wait for the laws to be updated prior to implementing the cameras.  Well, let's be honest, our legislative process is very political and not a nimble system; it can take years to get laws changed, if they ever change at all.   The bottom line is simply body cameras are too valuable to wait for laws to possibly change.  Rest assured though, we will continue to work with our elected officials to bring our laws up to date.

Photo from Duluth News-Tribune

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Good News Story

Here's a great story by Fox 21 on our efforts to build relationships with kids in our community through the Police Activities League. We appreciate their attention to positive news!