Thursday, September 20, 2018

Opinion

ECPD request warranted

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    Staff photo by Dan Reiland
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The city of Eau Claire has been on an upward trajectory for years now.

Unemployment was at an infinitesimal 2.9 percent in July, the local arts scene is flourishing, health care options abound, and it has fared well in a number of national rankings that measure quality of life.

Eau Claire even recently placed 18th on a list of the top startup-friendly small cities in the U.S. The Verizon report took into account population, education, work travel time, income per capita, broadband access, loans per capita and tax scores. Eau Claire was the highest-ranking city in Wisconsin, sandwiched between Wilmington, Del., and Rockville, Md.

Nevertheless, a relatively recent report from the Eau Claire Police Department is cause for some concern. The crime rate in 2017 increased for the second straight year.

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Violent crime, including assault, burglary, rape and robbery, all saw increases, according to the department’s annual report.

The Leader-Telegram’s Christena T. O’Brien reported that underlying causes included methamphetamine use, mental health and homelessness. There were 1,264 drug-related arrests in 2017 and 69 auto thefts. The former was 43.6 percent more than in 2013 and the latter an increase of 122.6 percent.

Police Chief Gerald Staniszewski said in the report that initiatives this year include updating the district’s School Resource Officer Program Policy, addressing homelessness and reducing incidents related to high-risk drinking.

“(That) will require extensive and broad stakeholder conversations,” he said, “and collaboration with the goal of maintaining a safe community with a high quality of life.”

Staniszewski also is planning to ask for eight more officers for 2019, according to O’Brien’s story. “What that will let me do is increase the staffing levels on the street by one officer every shift, every hour of the day,” Staniszewski said.

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O’Brien reported that Eau Claire has 1.46 police officers per 1,000 people, while Wisconsin cities of comparable size average 1.65 officers for every 1,000. To reach that ratio, the ECPD would have to add 13 officers.

“Our employees and managers have done an excellent job of finding efficiencies and best work practices to meet the increasing service demands,” City Manager Dale Peters said in O’Brien’s story. “But the status quo is not sustainable long term.”

We’d be among the first to laud the efforts of our men and women in blue who are in the front lines of the battle against crime. As such, here’s hoping city officials can find room in next year’s budget to provide the department with more resources to serve and protect our citizenry.

“Even though we are at an 11-year high (crime rate), we still live in a safe community,” wrote Staniszewski in the annual report.

We agree. Now let’s take steps to ensure we keep it that way.


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