Janesville police report drop in crime rate for 2020

Police believe COVID-19 pandemic likely played a role

JANESVILLE, Wis. —  Janesville police said crime was at a 35-year low in the city for 2020, despite responding to more homicides and shots fired incidents compared to the previous year.

The department reported a 14-percent drop in overall police activity last year compared to 2019.  The information was released Tuesday in the department’s yearly crime summary report, which outlines crime data in the city from the past five years.

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Overall police activity is basically the work officers do in the field. It covers a number of different categories including traffic stops, security checks, burglaries and emergency response situations, according to Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore. Total police activity dropped from 66,680 incidents in 2019 to 57,012 in 2020, according to the department’s data.

“Our state and national crime trends are also dropping, however Janesville’s crime rate seems to be dropping at a faster rate,” Moore said during a media briefing discussing the data.

He believes the decreases can be directly tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business checks were down since many closed down or reduced their hours over the past year. Traffic citations and parking complaints were down since fewer people headed to work. The city also saw a 12 percent decrease in property crimes between 2020 and 2019.

“People are staying home and some crimes probably didn’t occur because of that,” Moore said.

Violent crimes were down two percent in 2020, even though the city saw an increase in homicides. Four people were killed in the city during the first three months of 2020.

Moore described this as “abnormally high” for the city, saying Janesville typically experiences between zero and two homicides a year. Arrests have been made in all of the 2020 homicide cases.

“We hope that our arrests offer these families some level of closure and allow the path to healing,” Moore said.

Janesville police also responded to 44 shots fired reports in 2020 compared to 34 in 2019. Seven people also suffered gunshot wounds in 2020 compared to three from the year before.

Chief Moore believes the pandemic likely caused a drop in other reported crimes, like domestic violence and child abuse cases.

“I don’t think we will ever fully understand the effects of COVID and crime,” Moore said.

The pandemic also caused many community events to be canceled. In return, officers responded to more firework complaints last year than any of the past five years.

Police received 35o fireworks complaints in 2020, compared to 196 the year before.

Chief Moore credits the department’s community-based policing model and pro-active policing policies as two reasons impacting the crime rate. He also stressed the importance of community involvement in keeping the city safe.

“This is the community’s crime rate and while the police department shares the statistics,” Moore said. “It really takes an entire community to drive down crime and to end up with a low crime rate like we are seeing now.”