Working together to keep Duluth safe
As Chief of Police for the City of Duluth, I have many jobs, tasks and commitments which require my time and attention. However, community safety is and always should be paramount. As chief, I have three primary responsibilities:
- Preventing and reducing crime.
- Preventing and reducing fear of crime.
- Problem-solving and enhancing quality of life.
While it may sound simple, it requires the work of staff around the clock working in ways many of you might not imagine. Here is some of what is required to make “the soup.”
Preventing crime. The purpose of policing is to protect and serve. It has been a core responsibility, goal and purpose of organized policing since inception and has evolved tremendously during the 25 years I have been serving at the Duluth Police Department. This is done by gathering real-time crime statistics, deploying patrol and investigative resources to interrupt, intercept or displace criminal activity. It requires our criminal analysts and crime tracking software to identify crime trends and patterns. We compare crimes to known offenders, seek evidence to develop reasonable suspicion, probable cause and ultimately secure evidence of equivalence to be beyond a reasonable doubt to secure convictions to hold violators into account.
We are intentional about deploying officers into “hot spots” or areas experiencing upticks in violations. We know academic research and evidence suggests having a high visibility in areas experiencing crime and disorder directly impact crime trends and patterns. These plans happen every Thursday afternoon during our weekly COMPSTAT (computer statistics) meetings. This meeting is where our staff review crime trends and patterns and make decisions to prioritize police activities. Analysts also use analytics to predict where crime may occur next so we can prevent crimes from occurring.
We also have our officers actively engaged in proactive policing efforts which help keep Duluth safe. We track officer performance in doing activities which are proven to reduce and prevent crime. We measure the number of police reports, warrant arrests, time spent in hot spots, stops and community engagement.
Since the inception of COMPSTAT in 2010, we have reduced car prowls, burglaries, robberies and increased the number of drug arrests and gun seizures. One significant accomplishment is the reduction of robberies. In 2008 there were 129 reported robberies. Last year we tallied 65, a nearly 50 percent reduction.
Reducing fear of crime. This is always a challenge. Oftentimes, perception of crime and safety are the primary drivers of fear of crime. It is said, perception is reality. Unfortunately, these perceptions are rooted in emotion, not in fact or data.
If a neighborhood across town is experiencing burglaries, a person on the other end of town might not feel a diminished sense of safety. However, if the next day a burglary happens to a neighbor’s house, the inclination might be to question not only the safety of your neighborhood but also question the safety of the city.
Throughout my career I have had conversations where a citizen reflects on yesteryear as the “good ol’ days” and how “these things didn’t happen back then.” The data reflects otherwise. In 1977, when I was a nine-year-old in Morgan Park, we didn’t lock our doors but we should have; 1527 burglaries were reported. Last year 532 burglaries were reported, cutting burglaries by 63 percent.
What we do know is engaging citizens to “get to know us before you need us” helps change the perception of safety. Neighborhood meetings, organized block watches and citizen patrols empower our citizens to take ownership in their neighborhood safety by helping be the eyes and ears of the police. Our citizens are a force multiplier in helping us keep a safe Duluth. We ask you to call when you see something suspicious.
The Duluth Police Department focus is to solve problems the first time we respond. We do not want to return time and again to the same address to tackle the same challenges as the previous call for service. We hire and train officers with excellent critical thinking skills to offer information and referral, do enforcement or mediate disputes. We are working to find efficiencies to have officers spend less time on reporting and administrative work so our cops are engaged and accessible in the neighborhoods they serve and not tucked away inside headquarters.
Today’s officer must be a social worker, mediator, investigator, protector and friend. But we need each of you to keep an eye out for trouble and stand ready to call us.