Mayor Mike Bell: The true picture on safety in ToledoWritten by Mike Bell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo has made impressive strides in reducing crime over the past year. The approach has been two-fold, incorporating both tactical operations and, equally important, community engagement. The result has been a 24 percemt drop in tracked crime. To break it down even further, there were 13 percent fewer violent crimes — those included homicides, shooting incidents and robberies. Property crimes dropped even further, reduced by 25 percent over 2012 statistics. That means fewer burglaries, stolen cars and car break-ins.
Some have challenged those statistics and doubt that our city could achieve such outcomes. I promise you they are accurate. And they are achievable because of the men and women in uniform that come in each day dedicated to the mission of reducing crime in Toledo. They are achievable because of the community partners that come to the table every day to help deliver a message of hope and change to young people, provide a different path in life for those with criminal history, and who want to make their own community a better place to live. These are the people, police, prosecutors, federal agents, teachers, social workers and more who are contributing to a safer Toledo and a better quality of life.
The department has also worked over the last year to implement the data driven policing project. This includes the use of CrimeStat data to track reported crimes across the city as well as the implementation of the SkyCop camera system. Using the data the department is able to direct focused resources to areas it knows to be hot spots around the city. If there is a rash of burglaries or car break-ins in a specific area of the city, the data will help officers to detect patterns in those areas and deploy proper resources to address the issue. Officers also have the aid of cameras to investigate crimes or direct resources to help officers on the street in real time. As a result, homicide investigators have increased their cases solved rate to 83 percent.
In 2011, the Toledo Police Department also instituted a crime suppression unit. Its mission was to get the illegal street guns out of the wrong hands and curb shooting incidents. Thanks in part to their efforts more than 3,000 guns have been seized in the city since 2010. Another 2,300 have been destroyed. The crime suppression unit works hand in hand with the gang unit. Its pursuit of criminal activity in the city is a measured response to the crimes it seeks to prevent, and it is effective. Unfortunately, by the time someone has an encounter with one of the officers from the crime suppression unit, he or she is, more often than not, well acquainted with the criminal justice system.
That’s where the community comes in. Ultimately, it would be nice to intercept these individuals earlier in the system and show them they have options other than gangs, violence and theft as a measure of success in life. Last year, the Toledo Police Department, working with local, county, state and federal law enforcement; county and federal prosecutors; social service agencies that address mental health and substance abuse issues; educational and occupational assistance agencies and housing and transportation agencies started the Toledo Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (TCIRV). Toledo’s program is based on a similar initiative in Cincinnati that has realized 41 percent reduction in gang homicides and a 22 percent reduction in nonfatal shooting incidents.
TCIRV seeks to provide a way out of gang life for individuals who are being adjudicated for violent crime. This is not an option for everyone prosecuted, but for those who identified as a candidate for TCIRV, we provide community support. Offenders are offered counseling for mental health or substance abuse issues. If they are homeless, we assist them with finding permanent stable housing. If they didn’t finish high school, we assist them with completing their GED. If they need a job, we provide occupational assistance. The goal is not just to put criminals in jail; it is to stop them from being criminals by changing their lifestyle. Since the first session in 2012, 148 participants have gone through TCIRV.
Community intervention works best at a young age and that’s what officers are aiming for with the police probation team and STRIVE. By working with school resource officers, the team can intercept youth that are committing violent acts in school and redirect them to community service rather than the criminal justice system. By intervening at an early age, these young people experience positive interactions with police officers, are connected with their community by making a direct contribution through service, and their families receive outreach to help keep them on the right track for success. STRIVE furthers these lessons by providing tutoring and Ohio Graduation Test preparation for high school students so they can continue to achieve academically and graduate from high school. These programs result in fewer safe school violations and fewer or reduced suspensions.
These are just a few of the tactical and community-based programs that the city and the department continue to support in pursuit of safety in Toledo. Our officers work hard on behalf of this city and the results are evident. We will continue to pursue safety with innovation and efficiency at the forefront of the effort, but most importantly, our policies reflect community and bringing a higher quality of life to all of Toledo.
Michael P. Bell is Mayor of the City of Toledo. Call him at (419) 245-1004 or email him at email@example.com.