By JOE GORMAN
A shift in service calls has prompted the police department to study the boundaries of the current beats in the patrol division.
Police Chief Rod Foley said he first noticed a trend last year in which the area of the South Side patrolled by Car 204 and an area of the West Side
patrolled by Car 209 had seen increases in calls, so he looked at calls for those beats over a 10-year period.
“We changed dramatically” in those areas, Foley said.
Foley said one of the reasons for the shift is the increase of rental properties on both beats. Those properties tend to bring in people who are transient in nature and they decrease stability in the neighborhood because of lack of homeownership, Foley said.
The chief said he hopes the study can be completed within the next few weeks.
Because of the increase in calls on the West Side, Foley added Car 208 last year, giving the West Side three cars per turn when the staffing is available.
Foley said the extra car on the West Side has made the crime problem a bit more manageable because it allows officers to do more patrol work instead of just going from call to call.
When the last study was completed in 1998, it showed the two busiest beats as Cars 205 and 206 on the South Side, which answered an average of 15,000 calls a year each, Foley said. He said Cars 204 and 209 are approaching that number of calls per year now.
Information for calls per beat for all of 2012 is not yet available, but statistics provided by the department show they answered 93,344 calls for service in 2012 and took 14,853 reports. Both are increases.
In 2011, the department answered 86,883 calls and took 14,768 reports.
A one-week sample taken the first week of 2012, however, shows Cars 204 and 209 had the most calls that week, with 121 each. The next-busiest car was 109, which answered 103 calls. That car is stationed downtown.
Foley stressed that the sample is preliminary.
Marta Poluse, a crime analyst for the department, said the study is sampling every eight days from December 2011 to February of this year. She said that way, every day of the week will be represented in the study.
Nancy Martin of the Brownlee Woods Neighborhood Association said she can’t explain the increase in calls, at least in her part of Brownlee Woods, because she said she hasn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary within the last year.
“I don’t know why they would say we’re one of the busiest beats,” she said.
Martin said the most-common crime problems are burglaries of occupied and unoccupied homes, in the latter case for copper pipes that can be sold for scrap.
Don Rowinsky of the Millview Block Watch, which includes Poland Avenue and the portions of the South Side that border Interstate 680, said he has not noticed much of an increase in crime within the last 18 months, but there were two recent burglaries of homes that were vacant but being renovated.
Rowinsky said that in his area of Car 204’s beat most of the residents own their own homes, which he said helps to keep crime down.
“That’s why we don’t have that much crime because most of the people own their homes and they know their neighbors,” Rowinsky said.
Foley said the Brownlee Woods and Buckeye areas of 204’s beat still have stable homeownership, and the crime problem in those areas is not as bad as in others. But he added the increase of calls on that beat largely has been east of South Avenue, which has been trending toward more burglaries and drug activity.
Becky Hutton of the Westside Citizens’ Coalition said she has noticed an increase in criminal activity. She said when she first moved to the West Side in 2000, it was quiet and she never heard gunfire. Now, she said, it is an all-too-frequent occurrence.
She said that within the last year her part of the West Side also has seen some violent crimes that her part of town has not been accustomed to, such as a double shooting at an apartment building on Oakwood Avenue after Thanksgiving and a double homicide in an apartment above a Mahoning Avenue business in October where a baby was found unharmed in bed with both victims. That crime has not yet been solved.
Hutton said there are a lot of rental properties on the West Side because older people are moving away or dying and their children do not want to live in their homes, so they rent them out.
Foley said that when the last study of beats was completed, the department shrank some, expanded others and added some.
He said what he wants to try to figure out is how to get the patrol officers to have enough time patrolling instead of just answering calls. He said he thinks officers should spend 60 percent to 65 percent of their shifts answering calls and the rest patrolling and looking for illegal activity.
“If we’re going to ask our officers to be proactive, we have to give them the time to do it,” Foley said.