TO: Members of Council
FROM: Mayor Shelley Welsch
DATE: November 26, 2012
RE: Suggested Citizens’ Task Force on Crime Awareness and Prevention
As we are all aware, the City of University City has recently seen an increase in violent crime in our community, while the rates of other types of crime have continued to decrease.
Earlier this year, after the tragic shooting of Destinee Clemons, I said that I wanted to look into the possibility of having town hall meetings throughout the community, in all three wards, to discuss the situation. I felt there would be some benefit to bringing residents together to talk about their concerns about crime following the extensive publicity on that murder. Police Chief Charles Adams, however, discouraged that idea. Although he supports crime prevention meetings, he felt that holding such meetings right after that murder might have raised undue fear in our residents. I deferred to his opinion on this. However, with the most recent apparently drug-related shootings, I became concerned again about how to bring our residents into the conversation about criminal activity and victimization within University City. After speaking with Captain Carol Jackson with the University City Police Department, and reviewing our conversation with Police Chief Charles Adams, I would like to propose the establishment of a Citizens’ Task Force on Crime Awareness and Prevention in University City.
Captain Jackson and I developed a number of possible points/focus areas for a citizens’ group which, if implemented, Captain Jackson said “can only make my job easier.”
- We need our residents to be more educated about the reality of crime in our community. Residents do not understand the truth behind the crime numbers. We are not looking at random acts of violence in our community. Almost all the recent violence (if not all) has been acquaintance and/or drug-related. The media often misinforms. This task force can be educated on this, and can help determine ways to ensure other residents understand the reality, too.
- With increased education and awareness among our residents, we will see an increased efficiency in the use of our force – e.g. if our officers don’t have to respond to hundreds of false alarms, they can be patrolling other parts of the City. NOTE: As the data provided to us by Chief Adams shows, only about 2% of the alarm soundings are valid, but officers have to respond to all of them.
- The City will benefit in increasing resident involvement in programs/efforts that have proven success, e.g. Neighborhood Watch groups, Citizen Police Academy, focus group meetings, home security audits, an expanded Explorer program. With increased resident input/involvement, Captain Jackson feels she/we can be successful in attracting more people to get involved in these programs. Captain Jackson said she welcomes more ideas on how to get people to “buy-in”. NOTE: In Captain Jackson’s opinion she should be doing home security audits constantly, but she is not.
- Residents could provide input on ideas on how to increase positive police/resident interactions. Per Captain Jackson, as part of this effort we can help residents understand how we are already implementing the COPS approach to policing, i.e. Community Oriented Policing Strategy. In addition, the task force could look into other programs that might benefit our community. Would a Police Athletic League work in University City? Could we develop a University City version of the Weed and Seed program? Would a Volunteers in Police Service program work in University City? Should a push be made to encourage the religious institutions in our community to become more involved in the efforts for crime awareness and prevention?
- The task force could look at any City ordinances that we might want to strengthen to discourage bad activity. For instance, we have lots of rental properties in the City. Are some of these attracting unsavory characters? Do other communities have ordinances on the books that help with crime prevention that we could replicate in University City?
A task force offers a number of possible benefits for our City and our Police Department.
- 1A task force is not a “top down” approach to increasing citizen involvement. It would be a grassroots approach. Our success in expanding citizen involvement in the various crime prevention programs we offer in University City has not been as great as we have hoped which is an indication, perhaps, that the methods we have been using should be refined. Getting direct input from residents offers the real possibility that we will receive new ideas on what those refinements could be.
- An active and committed task force could help expand the reach of Captain Jackson and her staff in having and taking the time to do in-depth research on what’s happening elsewhere in the country (and world?) We have a very busy Police Department. A task force can focus on the providing direct resident input while staff focuses on police work. Then the work done can be handed over to the professional staff to determine if and how recommended approaches might work in University City.
- A task force can send a signal to the community that we are aware of their concerns; care about them; and want to engage them in alleviating concerns. It shows we are listening.
Captain Jackson strongly recommends that when a task force is established that “new” people be brought into the process, that we not already appoint the already-active “regulars.” She believes we will benefit by hearing new voices in this discussion.
Finally, when I reviewed my conversation with Captain Jackson with Police Chief Adams he said our residents need to know they have to take steps to secure their homes and belongings to lessen and help prevent crime. This task force would help our community take a huge step toward that understanding.
I encourage you to support the establishment of this task force.
Mayor Shelley Welsch