For the second year in a row, the city of Eau Claire has experienced a moderate increase in the crime rate.
During 2017, violent crime, including assault, burglary, rape and robbery, saw increases across the board, according to the Eau Claire Police Department’s annual report.
“Even though we are at an 11-year high, we still live in a safe community,” wrote police Chief Gerald Staniszewski in his message included in the 42-page report.
Hoping to keep it that way and address the underlying causes of many of the issues his officers contend with — methamphetamine use, mental health and homelessness — Staniszewski is planning to ask to add eight officers to his department in 2019.
“What that will let me do is increase the staffing levels on the street by one officer every shift, every hour of the day,” said Staniszewski, noting his department handles 28,000 to 30,000 calls for service each year.
However, “we also need to be proactive in dealing with the issues facing our city, so we can reduce those calls for service,” he said.
In Eau Claire, there are 1.46 police officers per 1,000 people, Staniszewski said. In comparison, the state average is 1.65 officers for every 1,000 residents in cities of comparable size. To get there, the Eau Claire Police Department would have to add 13 officers.
In an era of levy limits, “adding new employees and services is very challenging,” said City Manager Dale Peters, noting the city, as an organization, has fewer employees today than it had in 1980. “We will evaluate all service and new employee requests and balance those with the needs of providing services to the community.”
Peters expects the proposed 2019 city budget to be presented to the City Council in late September or early October.
“With the levy limits and rules that are in place, to add someone means we will be taking away from some other area of service,” he said, noting the city also has miles of roads, trails and utilities and acres of parks — which have grown over the years — to maintain.
“Our employees and managers have done an excellent job of finding efficiencies and best work practices to meet the increasing service demands,” Peters said. “But, the status quo is not sustainable long term.”
In late 2017, the Police Department transitioned from summary-based uniform crime reporting to the national incident-based reporting system, which “will enable us to better analyze and understand the impacts of certain crime trends on the safety of our community,” Staniszewski said. “This, in turn, will help us develop crime prevention strategies to reduce the overall crime rate in the future.”
This year, the department also is working to address homelessness and reduce crime and disorder related to high-risk drinking behavior, the chief said.
The report, which is available on the city’s web site, includes the following:
• The department experienced three unrelated officer-involved shootings in 2017. In each case, the person shot and killed was armed, and the officers’ use of deadly force was determined to be justified.
“This was unprecedented in our community, which historically has not experienced such violence against our police officers,” Staniszewski wrote in the report.
• The Eau Claire City-County Communications Center received 13,524 emergency 911 calls and 81,463 non-emergency calls in 2017.
• Detectives completed 1,497 investigations in 2017, with a clearance rate of 95.2 percent.
“Detectives experienced a 17 percent increase in assigned cases while improving their resolution rate by 7 percent,” Deputy Chief Matt Rokus wrote in the report. “Assigning detectives to neighborhoods played a key role in this success.”
“Unfortunately, technology is being used more often to victimize members of our community,” Rokus noted.
To address that, one additional detective was assigned to the Chippewa Valley Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory — without adding staff.
• The Eau Claire Police Department, as the lab’s lead agency, coordinated the forensic examination of digital evidence for 155 criminal investigations.
• Through the expansion of the lab, additional proactive investigations were completed, resulting in the arrest of 18 men involved in the sex trafficking of children.
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