City Crime Rate Falls
by City of Bradenton
BRADENTON -- The crime rate in the City of Bradenton continues to fall. A report released today by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows a 7.7-percent decrease in Part One Offenses in the City limits from January through June compared to the same time period in 2011. “Part One Offenses” is the category of the crimes of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.
But the trend is nothing new in the City of Bradenton. With the exception of a slight uptick in these crimes in 2011, crime has fallen each year starting in 2004 when the City experienced a 7.4-percent decrease in crime. In 2005, Bradenton experienced a 9.9-percent decrease in crime – one of the most significant drops in crime in decades. It nearly repeated that just a few years later when crime dropped 9.8 percent in 2010.
Mayor Wayne Poston, who also is the City's Police Commissioner, said the police department's style of “community policing” helped forge a relationship between the neighborhoods and their beat officers, and that resulted in reduced crime – and more arrests.
“The City of Bradenton's community policing initiative was creative, innovative and reduced crime at a time when crime was increasing in other cities and counties in Florida,” Mayor Poston said. “We coupled that initiative with keeping the same officers in the same zones every shift they worked. Citizens became familiar with the officers. A trust was built between citizens and police, and the chemistry from neighborhood trust across the City resulted in fewer crimes and more crimes solved and more successfully prosecuted.”
Police Chief Michael Radzilowski said state records show there were 3,775 Part One Offenses reported in 2003. Compare that to 2,527 Part One Offenses reported in 2011 and this shows that the efforts of the Bradenton Police Department have resulted in a whopping 33.06-percent decrease in crime from 2003-2011.
With a 7.7-percent decrease in crime during the first half of 2012, officials are confident that numbers will show yet another annual decrease when Florida Department of Law Enforcement releases its final 2012 statistics in April 2013.
Chief Radzilowski also credited the department's philosophy of community policing where “police, neighborhoods and businesses work together to make the City of Bradenton a better place to live, work and conduct business.”
The International Association of Chiefs of Police agrees: This method is working well in Bradenton.
Earlier this fall the Bradenton Police Department was one of four finalists in the country for the coveted International Association of Chiefs of Police's National Community Policing Award, which recognizes law enforcement departments for community policing efforts. In addition, Bradenton Police Department earned its reaccreditation in September.
Trends show Baldwin Park is not alone in considering disbanding police, hiring Sheriff's services
by Maritza Velazquez
- With cities across California struggling to keep their financial ships afloat during the down economy, many are increasingly outsourcing services, including public safety, which is often the most expensive line item on city budgets.
Among them is Baldwin Park, whose councilmembers are in the process of determining if they'll swap their city-run police department for a contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
There's been a big uptick in this strategy in recent years as cities look for ways to continue trimming budgets, said Sam Olivito, executive director of the California Contract Cities Association.
"There's cities all over the map that are looking at different ways to provide services on a more economical basis," Olivito said.
"There are no longer terms that people like to hold on to like a `full service city' or `independent city,"' he said.
While advocates say contracting public safety services is the answer for financially burdened cities, others argue that local police have deep ties to the community that can't be replaced.
In Baldwin Park, a divided City Council early this month voted to proceed with a $90,000 study to evaluate the cost of providing public safety services through the county.
The 3-2 decision took place after an emotional debate, with advocates touting the move as a big cost savings for a financially burdened city.
The preliminary proposal shows that the move to a Sheriff's contract could translate into a $4.7 million annual savings for city coffers. Baldwin Park currently pays $19.5 million to operate its police department, according to city administrators.
Baldwin Park is projecting a $1 million deficit in its $23.5 million general fund budget for the current fiscal year.
Baldwin Park officials aren't the only ones contemplating the issue, and others have already enlisted county deputies to patrol their streets.
The San Bernardino City Council on Monday will consider a recommendation to seek a proposal from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department on what it might cost for a contract. San Bernardino filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection on Aug. 1.
Maywood in 2010 disbanded its police department, which had faced a myriad of lawsuits and reports of excessive force, and enlisted the county to patrol its streets. In an effort to close a $450,000 budget deficit, the city also laid off all its employees and contracted with the neighboring city of Bell to provide public services such as finance, records management and parks and recreation.
Maywood councilmembers and administrators did not return several calls seeking comment this week.
The central California cities of San Carlos, Half Moon Bay and Millbrae have also disbanded their police departments and contracted with their county sheriff over the past two years.
Fullerton debated the decision in August, but ultimately decided to stick with its own police officers.
Baldwin Park officials are waiting for the extensive second phase of its study, which could take up to six months, before making their decision on the controversial proposal. Among other things, it will look at the qualifications of Baldwin Park's police employees and determine whether they would be able to transfer to the Sheriff's department.
According to a presentation by Los Angeles County Sheriff's representatives earlier this month at a Baldwin Park City Council meeting, deputies assigned to patrol the city would work out of the city's current police department facility.
No community connection?
Despite the potential savings associated with the proposal, some residents are concerned that the new deputies won't have as vested an interest, knowledge or connection to the community as the city's current police department does.
"I'm against it," said Baldwin Park resident Amanda Serrato as she left the city's Walmart last week. "My fear is that if that happens, then you're reducing personal contact and the Sheriff is more detached and people don't have that connection."
These aren't isolated concerns. Studies show that people feel safer when their city is under the jurisdiction of a local police department, a Cal Poly Pomona professor said this week.
"One premise of community policing is the community and the local police are forced to understand each other and their needs better and that requires interaction between police and community, preferably not during an emergency," said Stacy McGoldrick, Cal Poly associate professor of sociology and coordinator of the criminology and criminal justice program. "The Sheriffs will have wider territory and it's difficult to have that intimate local knowledge."
Another issue is that the city doesn't have direct control over the department, she said.
"There's also the political question of if there is a community group that doesn't like what's happening with the Sheriff's, what is the system in place to address those concerns?" McGoldrick said.
Thumbs up for sheriff's services
Still, many residents of L.A. County communities give sheriff's services good reviews.
Several residents and businessowners in Maywood, where the Sheriff's Department recently assumed law enforcement duties, either said they didn't notice a difference between the two agencies, or they preferred the Sheriff's.
"I see the Sheriff's stopping people and I see them more often than I saw the Maywood Police," said Ruben Guadalupe, a 15-year resident of Maywood.
"That's a good thing," he said.
A local businessowner and resident agreed with Guadalupe's observations, but noted that the more frequent stops could spell trouble for those who are undocumented.
"Me personally, the Sheriff's are good, but they are too bossy, they check and run everybody's ID," said Louie Moronez, who opened Louie's Computers & Up-Grades in Maywood 15 years ago.
City officials from surrounding municipalities with Sheriff's contracts reported that their experiences with county law enforcement have been nothing but positive.
Pico Rivera Mayor Bob Archuleta said the city has had a contract with the Sheriff's department since its inception and he's happy with the connection they've made with the community. Archuleta has seen both sides of the coin since he served for 10 years on the city of Montebello police force.
"I know how important a police department is to a city and when a city such as Montebello has such a good working relationship with police department and time and time again, the community grows together. This is what our Sheriff's have been doing here in Pico Rivera," he said.
Rosemead City Councilwoman Margaret Clark said the Sheriff's Department also works closely with the community there. The lieutenant assigned to the Rosemead station is referred to as the city's police chief, she said.
La Puente Mayor Dan Holloway said the city also avoids labor disputes and politics by working with the Sheriff's.
"Sometimes those (police) departments become very political and we don't have any of that with the Sheriff's Department," he said. "We pay for a service and they provide law enforcement services. It's not political and they don't get involved."