Second in a three-part series
Fire, natural disaster and emergency medical functions of a city are all critical, but there is no area of city responsibility that evokes more emotion and community focus than the citys role of protecting people from crimes. Becoming a victim is a life-changing event, as anyone who has been victimized knows.
For a mayor, reducing crime rates is not enough. Until crime rates are zero, a city must continually be looking to steer people away from a criminal life and provide certainty and severity in punishment for those who choose crime.
Volumes have been written on making cities safer, and I will not attempt to repeat them here. However, I do believe that there are certain principles for successful efforts: Maintain an adequately sized, well-equipped, well-trained police force with excellent investigative and administrative functions.
Maintain close communication with neighborhood groups, crime watch and other community organizations in order to gain information on activity and encourage confidence in the effort.
An important part of this element is encouraging citizens to testify as witnesses when crimes do occur. Constantly evaluate the success of the effort through statistics and community feedback, providing accountability for those involved and adjusting tactics and deployment to address evolving challenges.
Develop targeted programs focused on speeding, drugs, prostitution and violent crime. Work to steer young people, especially young men, away from a criminal life through mentoring, public school support, athletics, city recreation and other programs.
Change the environment of the poorest areas of the city to create an atmosphere where the community takes pride in itself and does not tolerate activity that promotes crime.
With respect to the fifth principle, we worked with young people through our recreational, educational and athletic programs. Advancing the sixth principle, we made great progress in turning around the environment of our poorest areas.
The importance of these programs in making the city safer cannot be overstated. The law enforcement effort and the work to change the conditions and prosperity of our residents go hand in hand.
With respect to the first four principles described above, we took steps to increase staffing, team up with our neighborhoods, instill accountability into the process and attack the drug trade.
The combined efforts of the men and women who serve in our police department and our neighborhood, business, community and city leaders have made St. Petersburg a safer city.
Crime rates for 2008 were at the lowest level in 30 years. In Midtown, an area with historically high crime rates, total crime was reduced by 12 percent and violent crime was reduced by 23 percent.
For the 2009 FBI statistical year, violent crime rates continued to fall while property crime rates increased following the dramatic increase in national, state, and county unemployment rates.
The police departments response to the property crime increase brought measurable results within six months. The homicide rate for 2009 was the lowest level for which the city has uniform crime data (at least 38 years), and was a reduction of almost 50 percent from the 2001 level.
During the same period, from 2001 to 2009, the number of arrests for all crimes committed increased by 43 percent (11,525 to 16,543) and the number of arrests for drug-related offenses increased by more than 60 percent (from 1,924 to 3,150).
Despite the great progress made, the job was not done. As long as there is one victim of crime in the city, leaders must continually look for ways to change the path of those who are heading toward a criminal life and punish those who choose to commit crimes.
Original Source: http://washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/2011/06/how-seamless-city-fights-crime