Serious crimes in Brainerd fell to the lowest level in 25 years in 2007.
There were 675 serious, or Level 1, crimes in 2007, which includes murder, rape, robbery, burglary, felony theft, serious assault and arson. In 2006 there were 899, in 2005 there were 1,050, in 2004 there were 1,088 and in 2003 there were 1,102.
Mayor James Wallin said the 2007 numbers, which were reported to the Brainerd City Council on April 7, were the result of excellent work by the Brainerd Police Department.
"Two years ago it dropped about 10 percent, last year it dropped about 30 percent and that's, in part, because of the way our police force operates in taking down crime and being proactive in dealing with problems," Wallin said. "It's fantastic."
Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc, while crediting the work of his officers and other police staffers, said there is no one answer to why serious crimes have decreased.
Serious crimes in Brainerd - murder, rape, serious assault, burglary - decreased from 899 in 2006 to 675 in 2007, the lowest crime rate in the city in the past 25 years. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Instead, Bolduc pointed to a number of reasons, including crime-free multi-housing programs, recently adopted meth ordinances, new criminal justice programs, a city council that's given the department necessary resources and neighborhood groups that work with police.
Whatever the reason, Bolduc said he's pleased with the result.
"We can't find records where we've had (serious) crimes this low," he said.
The police department started addressing issues that create a high crime rate five years ago, he said, and now the city is seeing the results of those efforts.
"We can't just say it's because our police are the best in the world, though I think they are. It's because everyone is working together on this problem," Bolduc said.
County and state laws passed a few years ago restricting the sale of items used to make meth have changed the meth trade dramatically, Bolduc said. Also, public education has changed the perception of the narcotic.
With meth-making labs nonexistent in the county, officers have focused their attention on drug trafficking.
Bolduc said his department had received reliable information that from 2002-2006 several pounds of meth a week were being imported into Brainerd. Those people responsible for the trafficking are now in prison.
"It's definitely a big piece because meth has such a huge impact on the community. When you change that dynamic crime is going to go down," Bolduc said. "Don't get me wrong, there still is meth coming into Brainerd, just not the volume we saw a few years ago. This could be a short-term blip on the radar but we're hoping it's not. We're hoping we can sustain this over a period of time."
With crime-free multi-housing programs, Bolduc said the impact of educating rental property owners and managers has resulted in fewer calls to rental properties. With owner-occupied housing, neighborhood groups have stepped up watch programs. Residents also are wiser by not leaving their home or car doors unlocked and they are reporting suspicious activity.
Diligent police work also has played a part. Bolduc said in addition to staying on top of meth-related crimes, police officers have made an effort to be more visible in the community. Often times a simple traffic stop will result in an arrest for a serious crime, he noted.
"Our officers do an excellent job," Bolduc said. "We're not always perfect across the board and sometimes we make mistakes, but by and large have an excellent group of officers and staff who take their job very seriously. I have to give them a great deal of credit for the effectiveness of our department."
While serious crimes have decreased, Bolduc noted less serious crimes such as fraud, vandalism, weapons, drugs, simple assault, DWI and disorderly conduct, were slightly higher in 2007 than the five-year average.
The change in crime rates has affected police training. Bolduc said five years ago officer training focused on crime scene processing, finger printing and lab work that coincided with property crimes such as burglary, a serious crime.
Now officers are being trained to investigate Internet fraud, Internet crimes and white-collar crimes.
"It's definitely a different world and it's changing fast and we have to keep pace with that," Bolduc said "Actually we have to try and stay ahead of it if we're going to be effective."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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