While 2013 was notable for its number of homicides, overall crime rates in Fort Wayne weren’t bad, police officials told City Council members Tuesday.
Public Safety Director Rusty York and Police Chief Garry Hamilton gave the council a report on the city’s Uniform Crime Report statistics for the year, which are crimes within set definitions reported to the FBI annually. Because crimes must meet the FBI definitions, the numbers can differ from what was reported otherwise.
For example, there were a record 45 homicides in Allen County in 2013, but Fort Wayne police reported only 32 to the FBI. Four of the 45 were police-action shootings that were ruled justified, some were ruled to be in self-defense and some occurred outside the city limits, none of which would be included in Fort Wayne’s UCR numbers.
The 32 homicides were lower than the 36 reported in 1998 and the 39 of 1994, York said.
Still, he admitted, “it was a violent year.”
Total crime increased 2.7-percent, York said, lead by a 2.8-percent increase in property crimes and a 2-percent increase in violent crimes, which include homicide, rape, robbery and assault.
The 32 homicides were a 45-percent increase over 2012, while rapes and assaults were each up about 2-percent.
Robberies stayed the same, but their nature changed, York said: More of the robberies were of individuals, and fewer of them were of institutions such as banks, gas stations and grocery stores.
The increase in property crimes was driven by an 18.percent hike in burglaries, driven by metal thefts out of rental homes, York said. Larcenies were down slightly, which York attributed to neighborhood associations educating people to lock their cars.
Eighty percent of thefts of items out of cars are from cars that are left unlocked, York said. “These are crimes of opportunity – it’s kids walking down the street checking door handles.”
Hamilton said the police department’s new Gang and Violent Crimes Unit is already paying dividends, citing an arrest made the day the unit was announced and Saturday’s raid on the Hard Hitters Club, 5001 Avondale Drive, which netted 27 arrests and the seizure of drugs and handguns. He said the raid was the result of citizen tips and the unit’s targeting of individuals known to associate with gangs.
“We’re not going to tolerate any illegal activity that threatens the lives of our citizens,” Hamilton said.
He said the department is hoping to win a federal grant that will pay for officers to walk specific beats in targeted neighborhoods to not only increase the visibility of patrols, but to build relationships and trust with neighbors.
Council members also voted unanimously to continue the city’s contracts for economic development and marketing services with several agencies, including its $250,000 annual contract with Greater Fort Wayne Inc., its $125,000 agreement with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, and its $150,000 deal with the Downtown Improvement District.
Also approved unanimously was the $1.7.million purchase of 78 vehicles for city departments, including 44 police cars. All the vehicles were in the 2014 budget approved in October.