Janesville’s crime rate drops again
Although Janesville’s crime rate continues to drop, Police Chief Dave Moore said his officers remain vigilant about trends, such as a recent spate of gun thefts.
The crime rate drop was apparent in the police department’s annual report, released this week.
Moore sent a letter to the community on social media Thursday, repeating a theme he has preached before: Police need city residents to call police when something dangerous or suspicious happens.
The city’s only homicide this year came in May. Moore said a woman on the south side knew that a man was angry, armed and on his way to confront her and a friend, and yet no one called police. The friend was shot and killed.
A shooting on the east side in June was preceded by domestic disputes, harassment and property damage, but again, no one called, Moore said. A woman suffered injuries and probable long-term paralysis as a result of that incident.
“The point is that citizens need to call us,” Moore wrote. “Put the burden on the shoulders of the police department. We have the staff and systems in place to avoid a tragic outcome.”
Moore said police watch national trends and see sharp increases in gun crime in big cities as near as Chicago and Milwaukee.
“We know it could come to us. We need to do things to address it,” Moore said.
Moore said he recently asked his officers to renew their commitment to efforts designed to head off trouble, such as:
- Move quickly on information about gun crime.
- Build relationships and trust in every interaction with residents.
- Work to resolve conflicts they encounter so they don’t escalate to violence later.
- Continue working with and monitoring “high-risk offenders.” Meet with them and offer help when appropriate. Research shows relatively few people in a community are responsible for most of the serious crime.
- Monitor problem bars, where disturbances and drug use can lead to gun violence.
- Remain diligent with domestic violence investigations, another long-term effort. Domestic violence remains Janesville’s leading cause of homicides.
- Be proactive with drug houses and drug sales.
- When gun crime happens near Janesville, quickly inquire about any ties to Janesville and intercede immediately if there are.
The annual report shows police activity decreased in 2020. Moore attributes that to the pandemic, which kept people indoors more than usual. Moore said he’s certain that many incidents of domestic violence went unreported because victims often don’t call police unless and until their abusers leave the home. Moore expects 2021 to reflect higher crime rates.
Moore, however, said he doesn’t think the pandemic had a great affect on the crime rate, which was already on a years-long downward trend.
The crime rate is determined by adding the number of major crimes: homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. Those are crimes that tend to be reported, pandemic or not, Moore said.
Janesville registered 1,544 of those “index crimes” last year, a drop of nearly 11% from 2019.
The rate of index crimes per 100,000 population was 2,435. That number is higher than the national and state rates.
Moore said that comparison can be misleading because Janesville police record incidents such as a theft of a six-pack from a garage, which is, by law, a burglary, while in big cities, such crimes might never be reported.
One statistic in the report stands out: four homicides in three months at the beginning of 2020. Moore said that was unusual in a city that averages one to two homicides per year.
These deaths arose out of a dispute at a house party on West Racine Street on Jan. 10, when one man shot another. Two women were shot Feb. 10 along Midvale Drive on the east side under circumstances that have yet be fully explained. And a 15-month-old child died at a home, the result of alleged abuse.
Police made arrests in all those cases.
There weren’t more homicides in the city until a year later, when the incident noted above occurred in a south-side mobile home park in May.
Moore said the drop in serious crime here is not just because of police work. It’s the result of parents, schools, mental health workers and nonprofit programs doing preventive work.
Moore ended his letter with one basic thing everyone can do: “Just call.”