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The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Hey! Crime is actually down in Cedar Rapids

It has declined dramatically.

The six-month crime statistics, released into my hot hands by police Wednesday, refute the popular perception (see soundbite from wild-eyed resident on local telecast) that crime is out of control and the city is growing less safe.

Compared to the first six months of 2008, robberies dropped by 36 percent. Theft dropped 35 percent. Assault dropped 14 percent. Burglary dropped 13 percent. Homicide held steady. There were two by the end of June in 2008, and there have been two so far this year (one of those, the Cain-and-Abel stabbing of Matthew Hanson by his brother Jason, was reduced in court to voluntary manslaughter and willful injury).

So things aren’t too bad.

“This is the difference between perception and reality,” said Sgt. Cristy Hamblin, spokeswoman for the Cedar Rapids Police.

Perception may have been skewed by the flareup of crime along First Avenue East that culminated in the life-threatening, community-wrenching, civil society-defying attack on Officer Tim Davis on March 29. He was assaulted while trying to break up an armed robbery, was injured very badly, was hospitalized for several weeks, was later fitted with a titanium plate in his skull, and now his return to the police force is uncertain.

Police responded by descending on Wellington Heights and Mound View, the neighborhoods that flank First Avenue from Coe College up to 19th Street.

They handed out jaywalking and loitering tickets and arrested 148 people in three weeks. Chief Greg Graham announced the department would open a new substation at the corner of First Avenue East and 15th Street in an effort to build trust among police, business owners and local residents.

But amid the community forums, marches against violence and calls for greater landlord accountability, 2009 has so far been a better year than 2008.

It’s also been better than 2006 — the earliest year for which police keep monthly crime stats — when there were 611 assaults reported by the end of June, compared to 413 this year.

“The officers are being more proactive, more directed, more focused on what they’re doing,” Capt. Bernie Walther, head of criminal investigation for the Cedar Rapids police, said. “They’re out there walking, making contact with the public.”

He said the assault on Davis was a “wakeup call” and the flurry of activity in subsequent weeks was the community’s response, but he rejects the widespread view that crime has been on the uptick.

“The bad stuff makes the headlines, and that’s what people see,” he said. “Between the city being brought down with the flood, with the economy, I think people are somewhat pessimistic and somewhat more likely to believe that things are worse than they really are.

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Filed under: Public Safety, , , , , , , , , , ,

Hot Property #1: 1410 Bever Ave. SE

1410 Bever Ave. SE

1410 Bever Ave. SE

This is the address that got 71 police calls in 2008.

It’s a white two-story house owned by Vinnie Huskey Properties LLC, a company incorporated under Kevin Bachus, with a home office in Solon.

The home is right next to the Rose Apartments and it’s supposed to be empty. The city’s housing code enforcement office has posted a big yellow placard on the front door that says the place is “unsafe” and “unsanitary” and should not be lived in. The date of the notice is Feb. 27, 2009.

So imagine my surprise when I’m standing on the front porch, writing this down, and I hear somebody coughing inside. (Sorry. I didn’t knock.) All the windows are blocked with blankets, so you can’t see anything inside, but the place is run-down and the yard is mostly bare dirt.

The street was empty, pretty much, except for an old guy with a big beard sitting on his porch a few houses down on the opposite side of the street. He pointed out that several homes on Bever Avenue there are empty.

A man was stabbed in the chest at 1410 Bever Ave. SE in early February. It was the site of a shootout in May 2006, and the site of various assaults and other problems over the years.

Check out the Top 100 map here. When I profile a property, I’m going to mark it red on the map to and link back to my blog. Zoom in to your neighborhood and check it out.

Also, leave a comment. I’m going to try to talk to as many owners and tenants as I can.

Update: Police checked this house this afternoon and didn’t find anything, after a neighbor called in that somebody might be in there. Police said that while nobody was in there, somebody could well have been earlier. I’ve called Mr. Bachus and left a message, but haven’t gotten a call back.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Top 25! (properties that police were called to)

UPDATE: See the addresses mapped out here. Thanks to the commenter for doing this.

Below is a list of the addresses where police were called the most in 2008.

Wellington Heights and Mound View don’t break the top five, but eight properties in that area are in the top 25.

Big stores, the hospitals and high schools fill the top 25. The top residential address is 3000 J St. SW, an apartment complex in southwest Cedar Rapids.

I’ve highlighted the addresses by quadrant: Northeast, Southwest, Southeast. No northwest Cedar Rapids properties are in the top 25.

And I’ve underlined all the addresses that can be reasonably considered to be part of the area police have cracked down on in recent weeks. (First Avenue East between 12th and 20th Streets.)

Total Calls, Address, Location
342, 4444 1st Ave. E, Lindale Mall
335, 3601 29th Ave. SW, Wal-Mart Southwest
331, 3000 J St. SW, Apartments
313, 1026 A Ave. NE, St. Luke’s Hospital
281, 2645 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, Wal-Mart Northeast
260, 701 10th St. SE, Mercy Medical Center
242, 1556 1st Ave. E, Hy-Vee
197, 2600 Edgewood Rd. SW, Westdale Mall
185, 1430 1st Ave. E, Road Ranger
167, 3325 Southgate Ct. SW, Motel 6
155, 1263 1st Ave. E, Apartments
151, 310 5th Ave. SE, Geneva Tower
140, 3100 16th Ave. SW, Budget Inn
128, 20 Wilson Ave. SW, Hy-Vee
124, 1261 1st Ave. E, Apartments
121, 1407 3rd Ave. SE, Apartments

121, 1415 Bever Ave. SE, Apartments
119, 1243 20th St. SW, Jefferson HS

112, 2030 Glass Rd. NE, Apartments
111, 4600 1st Ave. E, Sears
111, 401 76th Ave. SW, College Community Schools
107, 5910 4th St. SW, Lumberyard

107, 4545 Wenig Rd. NE, Kennedy High School
106, 1323 1st Ave. E, Who’s on First
105, 2205 Forest Dr. SE, Washington HS

105, 1530 1st Ave. E, McDonald’s

The following calls for service were removed from the total count as they were self-initiated or initiated by the officer. These calls included:Bar Checks; Business Checks; Traffic Stops; Accidents; School Checks; Motel Checks; Foot Patrols; Cops Projects; Selective Enforcement Projects; Transport Prisoners; Meet Officer; Investigation; Street Storage.

Thanks to Sgt. Cristy Hamblin for getting me this list.

Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, , , , , ,

Riding from Anamosa to fight crime in Wellington

On my liveblog last night, somebody suggested the city should offer incentives to get police officers to move into the Wellington Heights and Mound View Neighborhoods.

The commenter thought that would make officers more invested in these communities, and build trust toward police.

This raises a question: How many police officers live in the neighborhoods that are subject to the recent crackdown in Cedar Rapids?

“Zilcho,” says Dale Todd, a former city commissioner who lives in southeast Cedar Rapids and is active in neighborhood issues.

I’ve asked the police department to give me a list of the home addresses of all police officers. (I don’t want the names, and I don’t want to publish the list. I just want to put dots on a big map that shows where police officers live.) We’ll see if I can get the list.

A lack of trust between residents and police is an oft-cited phenomenon and something Chief Greg Graham says he’s committed to combatting.

But getting police officers to move into these neighborhoods has been tried before, and it failed. I know that several police officers live far from Cedar Rapids — in towns like Anamosa, Mount Vernon, etc. (Disclaimer: Lest anyone accuse me of hypocrisy on this, I’ll admit it. I live near Walker, 30 miles from Cedar Rapids.)

The MidAmerica Housing Partnership, City of Cedar
Rapids and Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association worked together on something called the Cop on the Block program in the late 1990s.

MAHP purchased a three-bedroom house at 1501 Bever Ave. SE for $48,230 and spent $30,000 renovating it. The estimated value of the house was $78,000, but a police officer could have bought it for $55,000.

Nobody bought it. Some say officers were concerned they’d have to be on call 24 hours a day.

Russ Oviatt, president of the Wellington neighborhood association at the time, said an officer wouldn’t have to be on duty all the time to have a positive effect on the neighborhood.

“When officers live in the neighborhood there is an excellent
opportunity for mutual empathy for not only the neighborhood’s
positives, challenges and opportunities, but also those of the
police officer and his or her family,” Oviatt said in 1997.

Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, , , , ,

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