Jan. 28, 2019 - Police Chief Terry Sult told City Council on Wednesday that the Police Division had already taken steps to address safety concerns after an unusual four homicides in January. That followed a decrease in crime last year, with violent crime down 18 percent and overall crime down 12 percent.
“I truly believe we are a safe city,” Sult said. Nonetheless, he said, “perception is reality.”
Sult said there were fewer shootings in the first 21 days of the year this year than last (12 vs. 14) but more of them were deadly (4 vs. 2).
“We are not talking about random violence,” said Sult. “These are people who are known to each other.” Two of the homicides were domestic situations. Arrests have been made in three of the four cases.
The chief said he had worked with City Manager Mary Bunting already to authorize overtime after the first two incidents. That was a temporary measure to immediately increase visibility.
Last week, he called in his command staff to create a more formal plan “to increase the sense of safety and stability in the city."
“We don’t want to see the gains we’ve made taken away,” Sult told City Council.
Police will be shifted from other areas, such as marine patrols, to put more officers visibly on the streets. The captains in each sector of the city will have discretion to put those resources where they are most needed. School resource officers will spend time in their students’ neighborhoods, and even officers in the administration will spend more time out.
Longer-range plans include more recruiting to fill vacancies caused by retirements last year, increased academy classes, restructuring to use light-duty officers or even web technology to take crime reports, and increased arrests with the real-time crime center.
Longer-range than that, he said, involve solutions to societal problems like unemployment, particularly for those who have served time, and mental health.
“When society doesn’t solve societal issues, they have compounded what police face. We have become drug counselors, EMTs who administer Narcan, crisis intervention. A tremendous amount of our time is spent dealing with issues of mental health.”