Duluth Police Chief says new trends in violent crime creating perception crime is up

By KBJR News 1

December 20, 2013 Updated Dec 20, 2013 at 10:44 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - In October Duluth Police responded to calls from a 23–year–old woman after she was robbed at gunpoint in the Duluth's East Hillside.

In November another armed robbery, and separate aggravated robbery, occurred within a block of one another along Superior Street.

"That raised some people's concern," said Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay. "Arrests were made in all those muggings."

According to Chief Ramsay, the city's violent crime trends are actually down substantially, adding that robbery numbers this year will be what they were in the 70s.

However, Chief Ramsay says the kinds of robberies Duluth Police are currently handling are different than the commercial robberies of the previous decades.

"The overwhelming majority of our robberies right now are drug–related rip–offs," said Chief Ramsay, looking at the latest crime statistics.

Heroin, in particular, has been a major fuel for property crimes around the Northland as of late. Chief Ramsay says addicts are more willing to partake in robbery to feed their expensive habits.

It's those face–to–face, and sometimes violent experiences that Chief Ramsay says has helped create a perception among some Northlanders that the Duluth Police Department is understaffed, or in need of additional funding.

But he says that's not the case, and when you look at police forces in cities of similar size, the statistics support him.

The Saint Cloud Police Department is authorized 102 sworn officers, 98 of which are currently on staff. Saint Cloud has a population of 72,000 residents.

The Rochester Police Department, amidst a city of 108,000 people, is authorized 132 sworn officers, 95 of which are currently staffed.

According to Chief Ramsay, with 152 sworn officers currently on staff, and 150 authorized for the department, the DPD is actually overstaffed.

He says it's part of a push from Mayor Don Ness's office to enter the summer with a full contingent.

"But our cops are working hard. They're working harder than they ever have," said Chief Ramsay. "The expectations of what our police officers do today, and how they assist, are very different than they were 20, 30, 40 years ago."

According to Duluth City Councilor at Large Jim Stauber, public safety should be this tourism based city's top priority, and keeping it that way is crucial, even if it means shifting council priorities, "which clearly are important, but not as important as public safety," said Stauber, "and if shifting some of those funds and recourses to our police department could be done, I would advocate for that."

Chief Ramsay says alternate means of dealing with crime in the court system, such as mental health, drug, and DWI court, have been effective means of cracking down on the crime that can result from these issues.

Chief Ramsay says there is one area in need of improvement, however: dealing with habitual property crime offenders, fueled in large part by drugs.

He urges Northlanders to not be victims, and remove all valuables from their cars to prevent popular crimes, like car prowls.

Billy Wagness

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