By Cristina Kumka
RUTLAND — Preliminary statistics from a data expert working for the Rutland City Police Department show that calls for service since the start of this year are down 24.9 percent compared to the same time last year.
Meanwhile, drug crimes are up 28.4 percent, an indicator of proactive policing and more people getting caught.
The new data, released Monday July 14 at a Rutland Police Commission meeting held at the police department, shows a “significant benchmark,” according to Police Chief James Baker, the former state police colonel who is credited with much of Rutland’s ongoing social outreach and community rebirth.
But the chief was hesitant to stand up and cheer, saying he needed to see more details and the actual numbers before publicly promoting success in law enforcement efforts over the last two years.
David Harrington, part of the Crime Research Group, a nonprofit the police department is contracting with for data analysis, presented the statistics Monday via teleconference from Bangkok, Thailand. He said the figures show “early signs of success of the initiative” that Baker started two years ago called Project VISION. Harrington said 2014 is the first indicator year of the outcomes of the VISION plan.
Project VISION involves police, corrections and social service agencies coming together, establishing a home base inside the police department and in the community, and stopping crime before it starts. The community partnership aims to help families and those drug addicted solve problems instead of turning to crime. The effort has achieved statewide and national recognition for its innovation in tackling Rutland’s growing opiate problem.
“This broad-based approach is not typical to Vermont,” Harrington said Monday. “These figures do suggest the laser-like focus on problem properties is having an impact.”
While crimes like domestic violence, assaults and household issues are down 5 percent, Baker said “There’s gonna be a bottom. We aren’t stopping heroin. It’s been around for dozens of years. We are trying to deal with the fallout from it on families.”
Baker also announced at least a $250,000 surplus expected from the budget ending July 1 of this year, because of officer vacancies and health insurance cost savings.
The department is currently manned with 37 officers but will have four vacancies by the end of the summer.
Baker announced Monday the resignation of a new hire, Officer Ryan Rooker, and the retirement of Sgt. Jamie Tarbell, a 34-year veteran of the police department who is moving to Florida.
Cristina Kumka is a correspondent for The Mountain Times, [email protected]