Lowering the crime rate and improving the perception of safety in Cedar Rapids is a top priority. As city manager, I am continuously attentive to public safety. When tragic crime events occurred in our city two years ago, including violence between teenagers and an escalation of shots fired incidents, we resolved to act.
We formed a Police Community Action Team that has been deployed in at-risk neighborhoods to address crime and quality of life issues. The team has been visible in the community, actively engaging with citizens to understand and identify root causes of neighborhood issues. Combined with the efforts of other patrol officers dedicated to community-orientated policing strategies, and investigators using intelligence information, technology, and persistence to solve crimes, we have made significant progress toward an even safer community. There has been a nearly 8 percent reduction in Part One Violent Crime (murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) in Cedar Rapids since 2013. At the same time, shots fired incidents decreased by 14 percent last year compared to 2015, and this year’s incidents are trending lower than last year.
The city, police department and the community continue to act. For example, there is a revitalized effort to increase neighborhood watch programs and neighborhood events. Residents embrace their civic responsibility to be the eyes and ears of our police department because they want peace and improved livability of their neighborhoods.
And we know that crime is often symptomatic of other issues.
The strong association between exposure to violence and the use of violence by adolescents illustrates that violence is a learned behavior. Police officers provide education, training and mentorship through the Police PALs (Protect, Assist, and Listen) program for elementary-aged students and the School Resource Officer program in area middle and high schools. The police department’s Youth Academy and Police Explorers programs channel common interest in developing responsibility and leadership qualities. Besides these programs, there are numerous recreational and sporting opportunities available in our community that promotes team-building and other important character-building alternatives to conflict.
As a community, we cannot turn our heads to drug addiction, including those that became addicted to opioids because of prescription pain medication. This can result in criminal activity to pay for the addiction, job loss and even death. The Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative, a partnership of the United States Attorney’s Office and the Police Department, focuses on drug awareness programs, community action organizational efforts, first responder training, and detoxification and treatment services. Again, we resolved to act.
The police department’s solid partnerships with the U.S. Marshals Service Task Force, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Safe Streets Task Force means that local law enforcement has teamed up with other county, state and federal law enforcement officers to combat gun violence and apprehend fugitives. This interagency cooperation is essential for making our community safer and getting illegal weapons out of the hands of criminals.
Cedar Rapids continues to be a safe, thriving community. With the strong work of the Cedar Rapids Police Department and ongoing cooperation of citizens, we hope to continue to see a decline in crime in our city.
• Jeff Pomeranz is Cedar Rapids city manager.