Chief: Crime up after loss of cops

Earlier this year, city Police Chief Janice Freehling discussed the effect of the Act-47-inspired retirement of nine officers at the end of 2012, in a Mirror story that touched on the potential effect of those retirements on crime.

On Wednesday, Freehling provided evidence to City Council that the loss of nine officers has allowed crime to flare up.

It was part of a presentation that included her regular annual report, which showed that serious crime was down 13 percent last year from the previous year, while less-serious crimes were up 7 percent, with an overall uptick of 1 percent.

It’s clearly good that serious crime was down, but the key is the less-serious crime, according to Freehling.

She said the 7 percent rise in less-serious, or Part II, crime is actually a good thing too, an indication of proactive policing, as officers go after and expose drug crimes, sex offenses, fraud, driving under the influence, domestic offenses, forgeries and other crimes.

It was Freehling’s supplementary report – comparing the first six months of this year with the first six of last year, that showed how the retirements have compromised the force’s effectiveness.

For those first six months of this year, serious crimes were up 14 percent.

Less-serious crimes were down 18 percent.

Also not good, although it looks good on paper, Freehling said.

The workforce reduction has decreased patrols, leading to less police visibility and bolder criminals, who see “opportunity,” leading to the increase in serious crimes, Freehling indicated.

That same decrease in patrols also leads to less identification of crime – easiest to see, perhaps, in the fall-off in DUI arrests from 116 to 74.

“We have some mixed things,” Mayor Bill Schirf said after Freehling’s presentation.

The glut of retirements reflected officers’ concerns that after their union negotiates a new contract at the end of this year, the rules for retirement and pensions wouldn’t be as favorable.

The department is attempting to rebuild the force on the street back to 66 – the budgeted amount approved in the Act 47 recovery plan – but it has been slow, because of delays caused by training requirements, Freehling said.

All but one of the officers has been hired, and several are headed for the street soon, Freehling said.