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Rutland is safe, getting safer~ RH 1-7-16

Rutland is safe, getting safer
January 07, 2016
I recently visited my brother-in-law in New Hampshire, which is a state where Vermont vies in any given year for number 1, 2 or 3 ranking as the safest state in the nation, based on FBI Uniform Crime Reports.
UCR began in 1930 and is important to law enforcement, policymakers, scholars and the media. There are four parts: the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for offense and arrest data, the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program, the Hate Crime Statistics Program, the Cargo Theft Reporting Program and Human Trafficking.
This is work from the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Social Science Research Council that began as early as the 1920s. Reporting is not mandatory, however there are more than 18,000 agencies participating, covering about 98 percent of the national population, and providing a uniform set of crime statistics: Part I crimes are the eight serious crimes (murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault and robbery are classified as violent; arson, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft are classified as property crimes), and Part II crimes are 21 other reported crimes.
So, as the little girl next door living in New Hampshire would say, “What the heck!” as we view a simple ranking about Rutland, with a high visibility effect, from a news source that doesn’t bother to get into the weeds to talk about the quality of life in your neighborhood.
It’s worthwhile to hear from FBI Director James B. Comey who recently stated at the annual IACP convention in Chicago that “we face a data shortage on the violent crime front. We can’t tell you on a national level how many shootings there were in any particular city last weekend … (So) how can we address a rise in violent crime without good information? And without information, every single conversation in this country about policing and reform and justice is uninformed, and that is a very bad place to be.” Director Comey continued, “So I hope you will join me in getting us all to move to NIBRS … a way in which we can all collect data (so) that we can identify patterns, trends and help us prevent crime, and have thoughtful informed conversation(s) at the national level.”
The use of crime data in public safety is an evolving trend that has been helpful in Rutland as we use RutStat meetings with our nontraditional partners to identify repeat offenders, repeat crime locations, active times, crime trends and more to establish best collaborative tactics to deploy police officers, and Project VISION members, especially members embedded at the Vision Center.
Our goal through Project VISION has been to focus on outcomes, rather than on outputs (counting widgets). While we are looking more closely at an increase in aggravated assaults this past year, we have seen a dramatic decrease in historic crimes related to substance abuse, such as burglaries, shoplifting and thefts. Since 2012, our burglaries have decreased about 60 percent, shoplifting is down 37 percent, and total thefts are down 45 percent.
In 2015 as compared to the previous year, burglaries decreased 39 percent, shoplifting decreased 20 percent, and total theft decreased 24 percent.
West Ridge Clinic (medical assisted treatment) is a model hub-spoke health care system to treat substance abuse, particularly opiate and heroin addictions, serving more than 750 patients, who are in various stages of recovery. Turning Point Center of Rutland is a member of the Vermont Recovery Network, a promising model for statewide peer-to-peer recovery services, including recovery coaching, which is part of a national recovery movement.
There are 12 recovery centers across the state providing a safety net for people who are working on their recovery, supporting others in recovery or who are on a waiting list for medical assisted treatment. There are public and private service providers such as Rutland Mental Health-Crisis, Rutland County Parent Child Center, Rutland County Women’s Shelter and Network, Probation and Parole embedded with the Rutland City Police Department at the Vision Center.
Project VISION boasts 300 visionary members, working collectively within our collaborative through 100 agencies, organizations, nonprofits, faith based and otherwise. There are several neighborhood groups promoting pride and an opportunity to get to know your neighbors, such as ice-cream socials, block parties, neighborhood walks, that the Rutland City Police and Project VISION support — Dream Center Adopts a Block, Historic Southwest Neighborhood, Northwest Neighborhood. There are many large and small activities taking place within each neighborhood that we may only hear about, such as “curb appeal” and “porch” projects occurring independently.
We encourage active participation in your neighborhood, even if you can’t make a meeting — many pebbles make waves! We encourage helping a neighbor in need.
Our committees are working to identify outcomes each year that are meaningful and challenging: reduce burglaries by 50 percent, eliminate overt drug markets, reduce recidivism by 50 percent, increase substance abuse prevention, adopt a universal consent form for service providers to improve communication, increase home-occupied ownership from 29 percent to 51 percent within a select area of the northwest part of the city.
There are strong partnerships, such as the Rutland Redevelopment Authority, Rutland City and NeighborWorks partnership identifying decaying properties and strategically rebuilding, creating green space, redesigning and de-densifying a particular neighborhood to encourage private investment to meet the outcome of increasing owner-occupied home ownership over five years.
These are outcomes that show depth, challenge and courage. We are already hearing anecdotal stories about the continual improvement in neighborhoods — quality of life for families is getting better when families use porches and drug markets are eliminated. The quality of life improves when police walk the streets and families come onto the sidewalks to meet and greet them. The quality of life improves when we use data-driven, focused deterrence strategies based on best practices or promising research. The quality of life improves when we enlist neighbors and volunteers, when we share information, build lasting relationships and leverage community resources through a robust cross-sector collaborative process.
So, “what the heck.” Let’s not focus on indiscriminate rankings, which cannot describe the life blood of a community. We see and hear about improvements in health, safety and happiness every day. We have great partners such as the Rutland Regional Medical Center, Green Mountain Power, College of St. Joseph, Castleton University, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, and too many to mention — 100 organizations. We have ingenious community members who want their neighborhoods to be a great place to raise a family. We have a tremendous trove of recreational opportunities, and we are known for a pristine way of life. Our collective efforts to improve the quality of life here in Rutland don’t need to be perfect. Our mission is to work together to address substance abuse, reduce crime and build great neighborhoods. We all can do more with the time that we have and to push out of our comfort zones to make small neighborhood improvements where we live. Rutland is a great place — and one of the safest places you will every find.
We wish you all a successful and Happy New Year.

Commander Scott A. Tucker of the Rutland City Police Department is executive director of Project VISION.

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