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Local

NPD reports record-level calls for service in 2018

A Newton Police Officer responds to a call in Newton. The NPD reported the highest total number of service calls in its history were received in 2018.
A Newton Police Officer responds to a call in Newton. The NPD reported the highest total number of service calls in its history were received in 2018.

Calls for service for the Newton Police Department are rising for a department with a limited staff.

According to data provided by Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess, the number of calls for service in 2018 was 18,385, up from 18,286 in 2017 and 16,287 in 2016.

The number of incident reports last year was also up —  2,213 in 2018 a rise from 2,182 incident reports in 2017 and 1,972 in 2016.

The NPD reported arrests are also on the rise. In 2018, 812 arrests were made in Newton, compared to 811 arrests in 2017 and 625 in 2016

Newton Police officers saw a trend reversal in traffic stops last year with 2,893 made in 2018 while 2017 saw 3,321 and 2,920 in 2016.

The total amount of accidents dealt with in 2018 were 356, while 2017 had 396 and 2016 recorded 336.

The most common types of service calls in 2018 appear to be traffic stops at 2,902, although it is a 12.6 percent decrease from the 2017 total of 3,321. The second-highest was for miscellaneous calls at 1,822, a 9.6 percent increase from the 2017 total of 1,662. The third highest is calls for extra patrol at 1.671, a 9.36 percent increase from 2017. Fourth on the list was suspicious persons or suspicious activities at 1,497 in 2018, a 3.1 percent increase from the 1,452 total in 2017.

Other call types in 2018 include 805 theft calls, a 21.7 percent decrease from the 1,028 total in 2017; nine calls regarding weapons, five more than in 2017 yet two less than in 2016; and 364 trespassing calls, a 1.96 percent increase from the 357 calls in 2017.

Burdess said the two categories which saw the sharpest decreases were theft and total traffic stops. This is mainly coincidental, the chief said, but these categories have been slowly decreasing over a long period of time.

But total calls for services are at an all-time high.

“Our calls for services have went up, while traffic stops went down. That means we’re responding to more citizen calls for assistance, and some of those take longer than others. That leaves us with less time for proactive policing, which includes your traffic stuff,” Burdess said. “The traffic stops (as you can see from the line graph) have gone down for the last 20 years.”

One positive takeaway for the police department is the decrease in traffic accidents. That gives officers more time to execute other traffic-related duties and not be called away to another incident.

“The positive on that is we’re not seeing a significant increase on accidents,” Burdess said. “As a trend, we do need to watch it and be concerned about. Proactive policing is obviously an important part of the community.

“That’s kind of a trend across the country. Nothing we can’t handle by any means,” Burdess added. “The only concern is when you look at police staffing. We’re doing more with less.”

At present, NPD has 23 officers on staff, plus one currently training at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy. This is down from a peak of 27 in 2005. The NPD also has four fewer lieutenants today than in 2010, down from seven to three, and one fewer detective. However, Burdess said the NPD is able to organize cases well enough to manage.

One way is the NPD’s new monthly zone meeting. At least two officers assigned to every six zones in Newton can organize crime data by region for proactive policing and anticipating any trends in their areas.

“That program, with each district, we get a breakdown. Their goals are observing the crime in that area. We’ll be able to see if one zone is getting a lot more crime than another,” Burdess said. “That’s going to help us narrow it down as we get into this program a little more. We kind of have to follow where that information leads.”

One other way the statistics are useful is providing perspective when Burdess gives a presentation to community leaders at Newton City Council and Newton Community School District Board of Eduction meetings. Burdess said the information provides leaders awareness, as well as helps the NPD prioritize certain city locations such as the school.

According to the chief, despite the lower numbers of police on patrol today, there has been no recorded impact on the safety of Newton residents or law enforcement.

“I don’t know that we’ve seen numbers impact the safety at this point. That’s an important thing,” Burdess said.

Contact Orrin Shawl at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or at oshawl@newtondailynews.com

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