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Is increased policing needed in Southeast IC?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | SEPTEMBER 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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No

Iowa City does not need any more police on the Southeast Side or anywhere else.

In a city in which the most serious crime listed in its standard, yearly arrest statistics is public intoxication, it seems it would be difficult to make a legitimate argument for a larger police force — but that wasn’t the case in the summer of 2009.

Just over two years ago, police noted a “dramatic increase in juvenile related crime and deliquency issues particulary [sic] in the South East portion of Iowa City.” Police assured the community that they would take necessary measures to ensure neighborhood safety, and they did exactly that. It is unclear whether they have improved their spelling or grammar.

It seems that our local radio host and City Councilor wannabe Steve Soboroff’s platform of increased policing in the Southeast Side is a little outdated. I’m sure he still includes “Party in the U.S.A.” in his Hot 100.

Since 2009, Iowa City has issued a curfew ordinance, built a police substation on the Southeast Side, and increased its police presence in the area.

The substation, located at 1067 Highway 6, was opened in 2010 and provides a centralized workspace for officers in the local area, thus increasing their efficiency and response time.

The Iowa City police currently divide the city into four separate “Beats.” Beat 1 is downtown, the smallest area; Beat 2 is the Southeast Side; Beat 3 is the Northeast Side; Beat 4 is the West Side.

Beats 2, 3, and 4 are all of similar size, yet Beat 2 (the Southeast Side) has nearly as many daily patrolling officers, 14, as Beats 3 and 4 combined (15).

The only area that compares in terms of crime reports is Beat 1, downtown. In the month of August, there were nine reports of assault and 16 reports of burglary downtown. During the same time period, there were six reports of assault and 26 reports of burglary.

The Southeast Beat is divided into 12 separate neighborhoods, all at least of comparable size with the entire downtown beat. The Southeast, primarily residential district is much larger and obviously less attentive at night than downtown, which justifies the relatively minor excess of burglary.

The area does not need any more police. It is arguably excessive in the area as it is — not even to mention the rest of Iowa City.

— Chris Steinke

Yes

More police attention should be given to neighborhoods located in southeastern Iowa City in an effort to improve area conditions and remove existing neighborhood stigmas.

While the area Iowa City no doubt suffers from major stigma, there’s simply no rational argument one can make in arguing police presence not be increased in the area. Increased crime-prevention initiatives, such as the Iowa City police’s substation, serve as an attempt to combat the area’s aforementioned stigma, not as an attempt to harass residents living in the neighborhood. Looking past this misconception then offers one a clearer view of the problems lying within.

For starters, crime data available through the Iowa City Press-Citizen support this premise. Although downtown remains an especially problematic area for criminal activity in the city, crime-trending data show offenses for nearly all major types of crime (assault, burglary, and drug-related) have decreased over the past seven years or remained largely stagnant. Furthermore, the police are based in downtown, and few would argue police presence is not visible enough. Couple this with the status of downtown being a thoroughly commercial district (complete with a large number of alcohol-serving businesses), and one can accurately conclude crime will always remain an issue for the area.

On the flip side, current crime-trending data for the Wood Elementary neighborhood, for example, show an opposite movement. Criminal citations for offenses ranging from drugs to assault have increased exponentially during the same period of time. This seems to suggest current strategies for maintaining order and preventing criminal activity are not succeeding.

Other Iowa City residents seem to agree. Earlier this week, Steve Soboroff, the owner and host of radio station KCJJ, announced his plans to run for City Council, with one of his major platforms being to address community needs in the southeastern neighborhoods. Specifically, Soboroff cited crime prevention as an imperative in improving area conditions.

While the southeastern neighborhoods of Iowa City certainly have a multitude of other issues needing to be addressed, increased crime prevention is a step in the right direction.

— Matt Heinze


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