116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Next month, the Stoney Point Heights neighborhood will host a National Night Out gathering for the 12th time.
The residents there also have been organized in a neighborhood watch for the past five years. Connie Dunkin, a resident of this westside neighborhood since 1999, said hosting National Night Out - an annual crime-reduction effort designed to get residents out of their homes to meet one another - and forming a neighborhood association serve a number of purposes. Residents are able to socialize, they've done food, book and stuffed animal drives, and it gives neighbors a chance to meet with first responders on an occasion when they're not responding to an incident.
And there's the public safety aspect, Dunkin said.
'It's to create awareness,” Dunkin said. 'We are neighbors watching out for each other …
. We all know each other and we like each other - we just kind of watch.”
In the first six months of 2017, Cedar Rapids saw an 11.5 decrease in crime throughout the city compared to the same period the year before. There were 7,441 reported incidents in the first six months of 2016 and 6,580 incidents through the end of June 2017.
Incidents of shots fired have dropped off, as well. There were 50 such incidents in the first six months of 2016. Through the end of June, there have been 31.
While Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said a 'vast majority of the credit” for the reduction in crime goes to the officers and police department employees who have worked to identify and arrest those responsible for crimes in the city, he said the bond forged by police and members of the community such as Dunkin and her neighbors also is a factor.
'Another reason for the decline is a continued increase in relationships between the residents and our officers, an increase in the exchange of information that residents are providing to officers,” Jerman said. 'That information is used to affect arrests and prevent incidents from occurring.”
Jerman said the police department isn't necessarily doing anything different this year than in years past, but pointed out that those community-building efforts take awhile.
'I think it just takes time to have some of these strategies and initiatives take effect,” Jerman said.
According to police statistics, the city has seen decreases in criminal activity across numerous offenses in the first six months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. Some examples:
' Assaults dropped from 655 to 595
' Burglaries decreased from 468 to 361
' Robberies fell from 49 to 38
' Thefts declined from 1,704 to 1,399.
While 2016 started off with four homicides, there were no violent deaths in the first six months of 2017.
'I'm very encouraged that the first six months is following the same downward trend of violent crime that we ended 2016 with,” Jerman said, '...
especially in the area of gun violence.
'As you know, gun violence and gun-related offenses remain our top priority because of the threat to public safety. Having the decrease in violent crime is very encouraging.”
Jerman said the patrol officers and members of the Police Community Action Team have been 'very proactive,” in collecting and acting on information gathered in the community and working with the department's crime analyst to identify trends and determine where to most effectively deploy officers. There also have been significant arrests that Jerman believes have helped to curtail crime.
Some of these arrests include three teenagers charged with attempted murder in connection with a shooting on March 11 at the Coin Kleen Laundromat; 18-year-old Roy E. Morarie, arrested on March 24 for three counts of third-degree burglary and one count of second-degree criminal mischief; and 40-year-old Nicholas S. Corporon, who was arrested May 6 on a charge of second-degree theft and was found with numerous burglary tools.
Jerman said someone arrested for one burglary often if responsible for others. When that person is in jail, the burglary reports tend to go down.
Public Safety spokesman Greg Buelow said the department has made efforts to work with businesses to ensure they are better protected against break-ins. Police have spoken with business owners about the importance of installing a good surveillance system, the positioning of the cameras, proper lighting and using different types of glass that don't break as easily.
Even with positive trends in the first six months of the year, though, Jerman said he still has concerns. One of the biggest is continued thefts from automobiles - there were 236 such thefts in both the first six months of 2016 and in the same period in 2017.
The 'vast majority” of those, he said, involved vehicles that were left unlocked.
Even more concerning is that 12 handguns were stolen out of vehicles through the end of June, Jerman said. In all of 2016, there were 27 handguns and four rifles stolen from vehicles.
'Now, there are 12 more lethal weapons in the hands of who knows who that can be used to seriously injure or kill someone here,” Jerman said. He said police have confirmed at least one crime committed in the city last year involved a firearm stolen from a vehicle.
There were other incidents throughout the first half of the year, as well, including the March 11 shooting at the laundromat and a break-in at 424 Fairway Terrace SW on June 21 that left two people - including the suspect, 43-year-old Sherman Hopkins - suffering from gunshot wounds.
Since the calendar flipped to July, police have investigated the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Andrew Meeks at a Wal-Mart on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids, the non-fatal shooting of two men behind Sam's Liquor on July 8 and three shootings that are believed to be related on July 16.
'Even one serious act of violence is a concern,” Jerman said.
Jerman said the shootings remain under investigation.
Even in the face of a recent uptick of violence, Jerman said the police department remains committed to continuing the trend of decreasing crime for the remainder of 2017.
'It's a real team effort,” he said. 'It's patrol and the specialized units and the investigators. The support staff …
, everyone at the police department is working to keep crime as low as we can. We're encouraged by the direction it's going and we want to keep pushing it lower.”
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