Police chief: Crime in Janesville continues to decrease, heroin remains a problem

Report: 55 heroin overdoses, 12 deaths
Police chief: Crime in Janesville continues to decrease, heroin remains a problem

While the city’s overall crime rate is at a 25-year-low, the Janesville Police Department continues to fight a big problem in the city: heroin.

Chief David Moore said there were 55 heroin overdoses in 2016 and 12 deaths . He said five of those deaths were people under 30.

“If this community suffered 12 domestic violence homicides, there would be outrage. If we had 12 gang-related homicides, there would be outrage. If we had 12 traffic crashes that resulted in a fatal accident, there would be great community concern,” Moore said. “But when we have 12 heroin deaths, it largely goes unnoticed.”

Moore said the department uses a three-prong approach to address the opioid and heroin issue in the community. The first is education. Police officers try to attack the problem early by talking with high school students and warning them about the dangers of the drug. The second approach is enforcement with the department’s drug and gang unit arresting people for possession of the drug. The third part is the department’s drug rehabilitation program called DROP , which stands for death, rehab or prison. The program emphasizes to addicts that there are only three options out of addiction .

“If we were to be able to address the heroin use and addiction and opioid use and addiction in this community, that crime rate would lower even more because we know that the opioid addiction, heroin addiction and drug addiction drives our crime rate with respect to thefts and robberies,” Moore said.

Statistics showed total violent crime in the city remained steady between 2015 and 2016.

There were no criminal homicides in 2015 or 2016

Forcible rapes increased from 14 in 2015 to 29 in 2016.

Robberies were up from 25 in 2015 to 31 in 2016.

Aggravated assault was down from 108 in 2015 to 86 in 2016.Police chief: Crime in Janesville continues to decrease, heroin remains a problem

While it appears that Janesville’s crime rate is higher than the state and national averages, Moore said that’s because Janesville has a more dense population and more businesses are coming to the area, which means there are often more retail thefts.

He also said the police department has a good relationship with the community, so people feel more comfortable talking to police officers and reporting crimes.

“I heard on the police radio the other day, one of our officers got sent to a stolen sandwich from three months ago at a convenience store,” Moore said. “I don’t know the full story, why we got that call for service, but it’s a theft and we responded to it and it’s reflected in these numbers.”Police chief: Crime in Janesville continues to decrease, heroin remains a problem

State and national crime rates are also trending down, but Moore said Janesville’s is decreasing at a faster rate .

“This is a success for the entire community and not just the Janesville Police Department,” he said. “It is the effort of an entire community that causes a crime rate to drop including neighborhoods, families, schools, churches, YMCA and YWCA, boys and girls clubs, good parenting but also smart policing certainly affects that.”

Moore also called attention to the growing problem of abandoned 911 calls. Rates were up to 5,245 in 2016, compared to 2,935 in 2012.

“An officer was sent on every one of those calls. If we’ve got any sense of a location of where that call may have came from, we sent an officer to it,” Moore said. “So that’s 5,000 calls for service that occupied our officers.”

Data also shows that traffic stops are down from 10,504 in 2015 to 8,831 in 2016. Moore said that can be contributed to having fewer officers and those officers being more busy.

“The more occupied our officers are with calls for service or the less officers we have available because of staffing and/or training, you will see less traffic enforcement because an officer has to be out in the field, be available to work traffic enforcement to have those numbers go up,” Moore said. “We just had a very busy year, we had reduced staffing because of retirements and there’s always a training leg and so we just didn’t have the officer availability out in the field.”

But Moore said he’s proud of what his force of 102 officers can do with the limited resources they have.

“We work very hard to keep our community safe, keep it orderly,” Moore said. “I marvel at times all that we are able to do with our limited staff, and it’s the dedication of the officers that gets us there.”