I keep hoping that one of these days I will turn on the morning news and see something positive about policing. National events impact many of our citizens here. They want reassurance that our use of force and interaction with those we serve are not what is happening in some areas of the country.
The police department is the most visible and critiqued area in local government. Transparency and dissemination of timely information to the public are critical. Dealing with data privacy laws, while trying to be transparent and keeping the community informed, is a tough line for police administrators in Minnesota. A few years ago I terminated an employee in a misconduct case that received a lot of media attention. Due to Minnesota law I was unable to publicly share that I had terminated the employee.
Since becoming the Duluth police chief in 2006, I have sought and eagerly accepted opportunities to meet with various community organizations to talk and listen about policing. Since policing is one of the most important functions of government, I believe it is more important than ever that community members hear from me on a number of key topics that I will address this month. First, I want to reiterate my commitment to community-oriented policing (COP). Having studied, practiced and taught COP since the early 1990s, I know it works.
Since the early 1990s, Duluth police have been engaged with community-oriented policing (COP). Our department has been a leader in COP, won several national awards and received international recognition in the last few years. The three elements to community policing involve problem-solving, community partnerships and organizational transformation. COP is not a reactive policing philosophy. Instead, it utilizes problem-solving to address crime, social disorder and fear of crime.
Last week was very busy for the Duluth Police Department as we had some of our busiest days by call volume ever. I was listening to the police radio at my desk Thursday, Aug. 13, and calls were being dispatched nonstop.
As we work to keep Duluth a safe community, we always seek to collaborate with community partners and come up with creative methods. We are adding two officers because of these efforts. The state Department of Public Safety has agreed to fund an officer to focus on DWI (driving while intoxicated) cases. Our region is one of the deadliest areas in the state for DWI-related traffic fatalities. Our calls for service from 11:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. have increased 40-50 percent since 2003.
The world of policing is going through the roughest time in decades, but the profession will evolve, improve and be better than before. It seems so far this year there have been weekly police incidents nationally that capture our attention. It is tough to see the good work every day drowned out by stories of misconduct. In the aftermath of recent highly visible police incidents, President Obama convened a task force to examine the state of policing and make recommendations to improve police-community relations. The recommendations were released in a report last month.
Last month, I wrote about the perception of crime versus the reality and how our homicides, robberies, burglaries and car thefts are down from years past. This month I want to acknowledge that while the most visible, serious crimes are down, quality-of-life crime and other demands for police continue to rise. The number of officers on the street is about the same it was in the 1970s, despite going from about 30,000 cases a year back then to over 100,000 in 2014.
The 2014 numbers are in and unlike our friends in the corporate world, we are not measuring sales numbers, profits and margins. We are measuring crime. 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.
Over the last eight years, members of our department have worked to recruit and build citizen volunteers. Demands on police services continue to climb and our many community volunteers help us with everything from answering phones to traffic control at special events. While I often share stories about the good work our officers do in neighborhoods, I want to highlight two individuals who have had a tremendous impact on policing efforts.