Dayton had a bumpy first half of 2019, given the devastating Memorial Day tornadoes, a massive water main break during the winter and a KKK-affiliated hate group showing up for a downtown demonstration.
But so far, 2019 has been good for law and order in the Gem City, because crime has fallen 11 percent compared to last year, with even larger decreases in some closely watched categories.
Crime is below even 2017 levels, which police officials heralded as a “remarkable” year for public safety because of favorable crime trends.
“We’ve had some remarkable and noteworthy reductions in crime” in recent years, said Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl. “With that said, there’s still too much violent crime.”
The Dayton Police Department produces a Compstat report that tracks crime trends in the community.
The report’s primary categories include Part I and II violent crimes, Part I and II property crimes, disorder offenses and drugs/narcotics violations.
Each crime grouping has subcategories. Part I violent crimes include rape, armed robbery, unarmed robbery, aggravated assault and murder and nonneglient manslaughter.
Through the end of June, Dayton has seen a 14 percent decrease in Part I violent crime and 13 percent reductions in both Part I property and Part II violent crime.
There have been 13 homicides, three fewer than the first half of both 2018 and 2017.
Police have recorded 101 rapes (down 10 percent), 105 armed robberies (down 19 percent) and 256 aggravated assaults (down 8 percent).
Compared to the first half of 2018, drug violations have fallen 28 percent, other crimes have decreased 16 percent and disorder offenses are down 5 percent.
There have been 93 fewer residential burglaries (427), 114 fewer shoplifting incidents (218) and 30 fewer motor vehicle thefts (395).
The only primary Compstat category to see an increase was Part II property crimes (up 7 percent), which was driven by more reports of vandalism and stolen property.
Police officials say the declines are encouraging but not necessarily easy to explain. They hope, however, that some crime-fighting initiatives are paying off.
The Dayton Police Department does crime analysis try to identify repeat crime locations, suspects, victims and other patterns where police can try to intervene, said Lt. Col. Eric Henderson, assistant police chief and chief of operations.
The department deploys focused patrols in areas that see increased criminal activities.
Several years ago, the department reorganized to create a new violent crimes bureau, with special attention paid to gun crimes and violent offenders, Henderson said.
About the same time, the department also began using a “placed-based” strategy that seeks disrupt criminal networks by taking away the areas where criminals hang out, meet up, live and engage in illegal activities.
The police department has used the place-based strategy to try to combat crime in parts of east and west Dayton, and right now, police are focused on the North Main Street corridor.
“It looks at physical infrastructure in addition to the network of people,” Biehl said. “There’s a reason why certain areas are hot spots in communities — it’s because there’s some supportive network of places that play a role.”
Crime is down 8 percent compared to 2017, which is when the city saw Part I and II violent and property crimes plummet.
That year, the city saw the largest declines in the four main categories in at least a decade, possibly longer, Biehl said.
Crime rebounded some in 2018, which was not surprising, but there’s still room for improvement, the chief said.
“We’re not satisfied with those reductions because there are still too many incidents,” said Biehl, referring to violent crime. “There is work to be done.”
The police department continues to add new crime-fighting tools.
On Wednesday, the Dayton City Commission approved a $205,000 contract for gunshot-detection technology that will be installed in a section of northwest Dayton, around the North Main Street corridor.
Audio sensors will almost immediately alert police of gunshots in a three-mile surveillance area, officials say. The tech will tell police where the shots were fired, within about 82 feet.
Police say they believe some — and maybe even most — gunshots are not being reported. Police hope the technology will allow officers to quickly respond to gunfire scenes to locate victims, apprehend suspects, collect evidence and make community members feel safer.
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