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Digging Deeper: Violent Crime in Fort Wayne on upward trend

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) — We explore a key question: Is Fort Wayne a safer city than it was when Democrat Tom Henry took over as mayor?

Henry this week touted a drop-off in violent crime the first quarter of this year.

But numbers pertaining to the mayor’s full time in office suggest that violent crime is generally headed in the wrong direction.

On Wednesday, the mayor joined police chief Steve Reed, highlighting that in the first quarter of 2019, drug overdoses, property crimes, violent crimes, shootings and homicides were all down compared to the same period in 2018.

“Crime has dropped significantly in the city of Fort Wayne and it’s certainly something to celebrate,” Mayor Henry said.

But looking at the broader picture tells a different story.

Using 2008 as the baseline– Henry’s first year in office– The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows there were 325 violent crimes per 100,000 residents that year.

In 7 of the next 10 years, the violent crime rate was higher than year 1, including 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“I think what we’re focused on is looking at now and moving forward,” said John Perlich, a spokesperson for the city of Fort Wayne.

Perlich says the police department works hard every day to make residents, neighborhoods and businesses as safe as possible.

“But at the end of the day there is going to be some sort of criminal element in a community of our size, we’ve seen it happen all across the country,” he said.

We asked Indiana Tech criminal justice professor and former Los Angeles police officer Dominic Lombardo, can cities and police departments pursue policies that make a dent in violent crime rates?

He says concentrating enforcement efforts on hot spots for burglaries, rapes and other troublesome crimes is an accepted practice for many police departments across the U.S.

“Directed patrol basically says, look, we have a crime problem in this area that we’ve identified, we’re going to direct our officers to specifically address that issue,” Lombardo said.

The Henry administration says it’s doing just that, citing Vice and Narcotics is increasing its focus on known violent offenders, and that FWPD is working with other agencies to deal with issues in high crime areas.

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During the news conference Wednesday, Henry pointed to the first quarter of 2019 compared to the first quarter of 2018. That data showed a 12.81% decrease in violent crimes as defined by the FBI crime report as homicides, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

“Our proactive public safety efforts are making a difference. The reduction in crime in several key areas is encouraging and helps validate that we do live in a safe city,” said Mayor Henry. “The safety of our residents, neighborhoods, and businesses continues to be at the forefront of my administration,” Henry wrote in a release.

“I’m encouraged by the progress we’re making to reduce crime in our community,” Chief Reed wrote in the release. “The men and women of the Fort Wayne Police Department are committed to serving and protecting and providing excellent public safety services. Their collective dedication is making a meaningful difference.”

READ MORE: City announces reductions of crime year to year

ABC21 Dug deeper into crime statics to get a wider view of the violent crime statistics in Fort Wayne. We discovered that while crime may have reduced from the first quarter of 2018 to the first quarter of 2019, the city has actually seen an upward trend starting from the lowest peak in 2004.

The data show shows an upward trend since 2004, the year Fort Wayne had the fewest violent crimes reported. 2010 was also a standout year in the dataset, with the lowest reported violent crimes per 100,000 people reported.

About the dataset: The data used in this report was voluntarily submitted to the FBI using summary reports. The data shows the estimates for crime offenses; actual reported/known crime offenses; number of arrests of persons and number of clearances (crimes closed by arrest or exceptional means).

The FBI crime data explorer site states that the data is not an exhaustive report of all crime that occurs and it is important to consider the various factors that lead to crime activity and crime reporting before interpreting the data.

Data used in the graph:

Jacob Burbrink

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