PORTAGE | The number of reported crimes in Portage dropped 17.5 percent in 2012 from the previous year, according to statistics released by Portage Police Chief Troy Williams this week.
In addition to the drop in the number of crimes from the previous year, the 1,358 crimes reported are lower than any year dating to 1997.
Williams credits the drop in the number of crimes to the men and women on the department doing an exemplary job and the city and department providing support and equipment necessary for them to do their jobs.
Statistics indicate that assaults, burglaries, thefts and motor vehicle thefts were down last year, as were the overall number of calls/incidents, down from 31,870 in 2011 to 28,410 in 2012.
However, some categories showed an increase.
Last year there were two homicides, doubling the number from 2011. Rapes increased from three to four; robbery reports increased from seven to eight, and arsons from two to four.
Arrests were down slightly in 2012. Last year police arrested 1,433 adults and 278 juveniles.
"This is not an accident," Williams said about the drop in crime. It is how you respond to the issues. You can sit back or you can go out and do something."
"There was a different focus last year from the previous administration. They required a ticket or citation a day, then a daily contact. We don't see that as productive," said Williams, adding the department's philosophy has changed, focusing on the quality of stops instead of the quantity.
Williams has also increased the use of the department's SWAT team in an overall effort to prevent crime. This past year the team was activated 20 times, five more than the previous year.
Williams said the SWAT team is activated when there is a concern of the involvement of drug activities, gangs or weapons.
"They are called out when the chance for something bad to happen is higher. We are going to protect our officers," said Williams, adding that before a call-out, each incident and the suspects involved are fully vetted as to the need for the SWAT team.
Williams also believes it sends a message, both to criminals and to residents.
"If you commit these crimes, residents need to know we will keep them safe and the suspects need to know we will come and get them. We actively go out there and search out crime. Crime ebbs and flows, but it is important to be consistent with that message," Williams said.
Other changes last year include the way calls are handled at the station. Previously a patrol officer would be called in to take a complaint, do a vehicle identification check or something similar. Now the administration or a detective is available to do that work.
"We've handled 500 calls for service, meaning a patrol officer didn't have to be taken off the street," he said.
"I could not be more pleased with the things we accomplished this year," Williams said.