Annual report: 1,765 arrested in Austin last yearPublished 11:14am Thursday, March 21, 2013
The Austin Police Department made fewer arrests in 2012, despite taking in more calls, but police are seeing more serious crime.
In addition, police saw fewer robbery, auto theft, forgery/ counterfeiting, fraud, and stolen property cases.
Yet serious crimes like rape, assault, burglary and narcotics-related offenses rose in 2012 from the previous year. There were 14 rape offenses reported in 2012, compared to 12 in 2011, and aggravated and simple assault instances increased last year compared to previous years, both being higher than the department’s five-year average.
Police Chief Brian Krueger said while the department’s lower arrest count was a good sign, officers encountered more serious crimes, including several calls involving guns, during the latter part of last year.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing more incidents with guns, and that’s always troubling,” Krueger said. “Obviously, there’s potential for one of our officers or a citizen being shot or worse when you’re dealing with guns.”
Austin’s crime rate, or number of offenses per 100,000 residents, is higher than several Twin Cities communities, according to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Austin’s total number of arrests in 2012 is markedly higher than other communities as well. Communities closer to the cities like Apple Valley and Lakeville had about 1,700 and 1,250 arrests, respectively, while nearby Albert Lea only had 981 arrests last year, Red Wing had 812, Faribault had 722, Owatonna had 725 and Winona had a little more than 900 arrests in 2012.
Though Austin has a higher amount of arrests than nearby areas, the city’s police department has a lower number of officers per capita than surrounding cities. The Austin Police Department’s 31 officers make up about 1.24 per 1,000 residents, compared to Albert Lea’s 1.55 officers per 1,000 residents and Owatonna’s 1.33 officers per 1,000 residents.
City officials say the numbers are a testament to Austin police’s proactive stance on crime, and Krueger said he is pleased with the improvements the police department made in 2012.
“Overall, I’m just very well pleased with the job my staff and officers do,” Krueger said.
Other highlights in the 2012 report include the APD’s purchase of two new Ford Police Interceptor Cars and one Police Interceptor Utility, both of which get better gas mileage and should need less maintenance than the department’s Crown Victorias.
Aside from completing several ongoing projects, such as remodeling the Law Enforcement Center and building a new city animal shelter, police hope to completely review and update the departments policies and procedures. Krueger said the department has worked on the review and update for the past several years, and the last time APD updated its policies was in 2007 and 2008.
Above all, Krueger said the biggest way to improve public safety would be to reach out to residents and encourage them to call police to report anything out of the ordinary or suspicous.
“We need those citizens to pick the phone up and make that phone call,” he said. “I think we need more of that. That could prevent some burglaries or property damage that are taking place. If the public would assist us as additional eyes and ears as to what is going on the community, that would be a great asset to the public safety of Austin citizens.”