FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – From crime stats to police per capita, a lot of facts and figures were thrown out during WANE-TV’s mayoral debate Monday. Now, 15 Finds Out pulled the data to fact check the candidates’ claims.
At one point Mayor Tom Henry said overall crime in Fort Wayne is down 15 percent.
15 Finds Out checked and the numbers provided by the Fort Wayne Police Department showed overall crime did drop 14.5 percent from 2013 to 2014.
15 Finds Out then looked at the FBI’s database for a wider view of Fort Wayne crime. Starting with 2007, the year before Henry took office, to last year, the city’s overall crime rate dropped 18 percent. The violent crime rate, however, went up three percent in that same time period.
“If you look at that 15 percent, that includes a whole list of crimes, but the whole thing is, violent crimes are up,” Sgt. Mitch McKinney, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Indiana Wayne Lodge 14, said.
Doing a comparison of crime in Fort Wayne as of September this year from the same time period last year, the Henry campaign pointed out overall crime still dropped five percent. But, several individual crimes increased a lot. Robberies went up 18 percent, assaults went up 25 percent and homicides increased 125 percent.
“You go up one year and down the next,” Public Safety Director Rusty York said. “It’s more important to compare to other cities and the violent crime rate is down significantly from other cities in the region.”
In regards to the drastic increase in homicides after a low year in 2014, York said the city seems to be rebounding to what has been typical in most years.
During the debate, Harper pointed out that under Henry’s administration, the Fort Wayne crime rate has never been lower than New York City’s.
The FBI crime database does confirm that claim, but New York has a higher violent crime rate.
“That’s not an appropriate comparison because their metropolitan area that it’s based on is 8.5 million people. Those are a lot of outlying areas that have much lower crime rates than when people think of New York City,” York said.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the candidates’ views falls with police staffing. Harper wants to hire 50 more officers.
“We can do better than treading water on the number of police and put more on the street,” he said in the debate.
Henry said the city does have enough officers.
“The Department of Justice just came out with a report that said throwing more police officers at a perceived situation is not the answer. What you need to do is provide your current police offices with more equipment and training and education,” Henry said in the debate.
McKinney said both candidates are right.
“We have to train our people and we have to have enough people to cover our per capita,” he said.
In the debate, Harper also said Fort Wayne has fewer police officers per capita than other cities of similar size.
The FBI’s 2014 police officer employee data for similarly-sized cities show Fort Wayne is in the middle with about 16 officers per 10,000 people.
How does that correlate with crime rates? Three of the cities with more officers also have higher crime rates. The two with fewer officers also have lower crime rates. One city has more officers and less crime.
National police agencies do not set a recommended police-to-public ratio because what works for each city is different.
“Do you operate safely for your officers for any particular level? I think we do,” York said.
McKinney disagrees. He said the manpower is low enough right now that it’s difficult for officers to take time off and there’s not enough community policing with officers in the neighborhoods.
“You’re recognizable to these families that you’re accessible and giving them a voice and they’re hearing and you’re understanding what the community needs. Then you follow up and give them the direction they need and the help that potentially can help their neighborhoods become stronger,” he said.
After the latest recruit class, Fort Wayne now as 451 police officers, raising the per capita ratio to about 17 officers per 10,000 people. McKinney would like to see the department closer to 500 officers to have better coverage, community outreach and prepare for upcoming retirements.
“We operate lean. We operate efficiently, safely and effectively with our staffing level,” York said. “I don’t see a rationale for an additional 40 or 50 officers.”
Including salaries, benefits and insurance, 50 more police officers would cost $4 million dollars a year.