Overall, we are pleased with the 2014 numbers. Keep in mind, we don't have a lot of crime here to begin with. As a result, a few more car thefts, robberies or burglaries can create a noticeable increase.
We frequently see one-person crime sprees that have a serious impact on our yearly totals. When I was in the juvenile bureau, I investigated one 17-year-old who committed at least 70 burglaries and stole 30 cars in a six-month period. That was 17 years ago and since then, he has been convicted of multiple other crimes.
Regardless, crime statistics are one performance measure we utilize heavily. Other performance measurements involve annual surveys, crash data, officer injuries, complaints, use of force and many more. What we measure and track, we benchmark and improve. Our three analysts track trends, criminals, patterns, problem addresses and other variables and disseminate that information to our staff.
Most department members watch and know what's going on and where. We know what is happening, so none of the stats are a surprise to us. We could probably attach names to the various crimes and staff could estimate how many that individual was responsible for. While we know who is committing the crimes, it isn't as easy as it looks on TV to gather enough evidence to prosecute them.
Four crimes we track closely are robberies, burglaries, auto theft and theft from autos, because they have a nexus to many other problems in our community. How about a quick quiz?
In one year there were 1,527 burglaries, the most since the Duluth police began keeping statistics in 1943. What year was it?
The answer is 1977, when there were 1,527 burglaries. Last year we had 504 burglaries, the fewest since 1960, when we had 465 reported. Keep in mind, Duluth has more households now than ever; they are just smaller.
Let's try another. What year had the highest number of auto thefts?
The answer is 1976, with 663 auto thefts. Last year there were 161, the fewest since 1956, with 152.
The bottom line here is that we have hundreds fewer victims because we are reducing crime.
I realize many people don't feel as safe as they used to, which has more to do with decline in our neighborhoods and owner-occupied housing, 24/7 sensationalized crime news reporting and a host of other factors.
Our robberies reached their high from 2005 to 2009 when we didn't have a year with under 100. The last two years we've had 73 and 75, respectively.
We had 27 homicides between 1999 and 2003. From 2010 through today we've had nine. Duluth police officers are working hard to keep our community safe.
So while statistics are one measure of crime, the most important factor for those of us at Duluth Police Department is how safe people in our community feel. We recognize the perception and fear of crime is worse than crime itself.
We will continue to focus on prevention of crime and making people feel safe in our great city.