Dayton: Still safer than you’re led to believe
Last year I wrote an article about how safe downtown Dayton really is. As we close 2012, I want to reiterate the fact that crime is down in Dayton as a whole.
When I ran for office in 2009, one of the questions that I was asking was “Do you feel safer now than you did four years ago?” The answer was generally, “No.” With shrinking budgets and shrinking numbers of police officers in Dayton as a result of a court order preventing new hiring until a fair and impartial testing procedure for new hires could be in place, I took a deeper look at some statistics after getting elected.
When it comes to violent crime, in the 1970s and 1980s Dayton averaged somewhere between 110 and 140 homicides every year. Yet in those years, people were not afraid to come out of their houses and shop downtown. It is now 2012, and year to date we have had 22 homicides inside the city limits of Dayton. Last year at this time we had 32 homicides. We have averaged around 36 a year for the last several years. One homicide in Dayton is a tragedy, but statistics show a continued decrease in crime, which is also reflected at a national level.
So why are people afraid? Good question. Information has become instant thanks to the Internet and social media sites such as Facebook. We have the ability to localize any bizarre event that occurs anywhere in the world. If a college student is mysteriously murdered in the Caribbean or Europe, it could be highlighted on the local news and we believe that similar things are happening here in the Miami Valley, when in fact they are not. These bizarre incidents are very rare when you look at the global picture, but instant communication puts it in the hands of the media so fast that we know about these events within minutes of their happening. I often tease the local media about their sometimes negative reporting in the hopes that they will offer a more balanced journalistic style – positive news mixed with factual negative news.
In Dayton, we are using new technology to track crime and catch criminals. You may have recently read about some of our innovative uses of locally invented technology. We also have a “Citizens Toolbox” on our city web site at www.daytonohio.gov that allows you to view crime incidents in any neighborhood for up to 90 days. When the incident report is filed, the event instantly appears on the crime map. This allows citizens to have an up-to-date idea about what is happening in their block so that they can be more vigilant in helping police catch criminals when they notice a trend in their neighborhood.
You can also file a police report online when there is no known suspect. This is done as a convenience to our citizens in cases where a citizen deems it unnecessary to require a police officer to fill out a report because no witnesses exist or the criminal is not known. The incident is logged and issued a number for insurance claim purposes and a police officer will follow up at a later time.
We have few random acts of violence here in the city and in the majority of violent crimes, the victim knows the perpetrator. In many of the home burglaries, the victim has a suspect in mind. Much of the crime Dayton is associated with drug use – an addict will break a car window and steal a CD to sell for $3 while home invasions generally involve a drug user or distributor stealing or attempting to steal from another in the same set of circumstances. These home invasions happen in many jurisdictions and are no longer considered just an inner city problem. Many incidents go unreported because a drug dealer will not report the fact that they have been burglarized, but a week later you will hear about a shooting or a homicide on the news and this usually is retaliation.
I’m telling you this not because I am trying to scare anyone, but because I want law-abiding citizens to not be afraid of Dayton or any of the 65 neighborhoods that make up the city. If you are here to indulge in illicit activity, then you are more likely to set yourself up as a victim of a robbery or assault. I walk around many neighborhoods, usually alone, and have seen drug transactions between cars and walked into some awkward situations, but at no time have I felt threatened. Since getting elected, I have stopped a purse snatching downtown, broken up a fight on my own street and helped stop a shoplifter. The police are employed to catch criminals but we the citizens have a civic duty to support them or do our very best to prevent a crime from happening. I believe that by providing the information tools and inspiring more people to do their civic duty and support the efforts of our law enforcement officers that we can reduce crime further in our city. Crime is down in Dayton and we should all be proclaiming it from the rooftops so that people living all around us can hear it loud and clear.
Reach Dayton Mayor Gary D. Leitzell at 937.333.3653 or GaryLeitzell@DaytonCityPaper.com.