WILMINGTON — Wilmington Police Chief Duane Weyand credits good, hometown police officers with reducing violent crime — to a fraction of what it once was — and combating persistent property crimes.
Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show that in 2004, 68 violent crimes were tracked by the FBI in Wilmington. In 2012, that number decreased to 8, an 88 percent decrease.
Weyand, who has been chief for three years, said the department is also working to proactively reduce property crimes, which have fluctuated from 687 in 2004 to 690 in 2012. The number of vehicle thefts and burglaries decreased, while larceny increased to keep the number about the same.
The Uniform Crime Reporting Program was created by the FBI more than 80 years ago to create a national, reliable crime statistics program. The data tracked on the report includes homicide, rape, aggravated assault and robbery as violent crimes. Other violent crimes, such as simple assault or menacing, aren’t tracked. Property crimes tracked include motor vehicle theft, larceny and burglary.
Weyand attributed the drop in violent crimes to good officers doing hard work, a community that cares, and to investigating drug-related cases.
Arresting drug offenders, including big busts such as the Marlena Park roundup in 2014 that indicted more than 70 people, reduces crime, according to Weyand.
“The word we’re hearing is you can’t find heroin in the city like you used to,” Weyand said. “We’re making it harder (for drug dealers) to do business in our city, and by doing that, we’re not having nearly the drug-related crime that we used to have.”
Weyand said there have recently been fewer reports of burglary, breaking and entering, robbery and even property damage.
Ultimately, Weyand said the department’s success is directly caused by having good officers, thousands of hours of training across the department and getting officers to be involved in the community.
“The vision of the police department is to provide great customer service and be considered one of the best police organizations in Ohio — that’s our vision,” Weyand said. “If everyone believes in that mantra, we’re going to have lower crime, we’re going to have lesser crimes, we’re going to have a responsive police department, we’re going to have a police department that is vested that is woven into the fabric of our community that is here to serve and make a distance.”
Officers cannot be required to live within a community, due to a state law upheld by the Ohio Supreme Court, but Weyand said Wilmington’s officers choose to live in or near the city and county.
In turn, Weyand said, “The department here feels loved by our community and the officers feel like they can’t let someone down. (That leads to) better police work because we care about the citizens.”
And, according to Patrol Officer Codey Juillerat and Sergeant Neil Rager, being part of the community helps police do their jobs.
“You try to get back to the way it was in the ’50s and ’60s,” said Rager, who lives in Clarksville. “You try to get back to that mindset where people know you” and talk to officers.
“It’s paramount … because you’re one person out policing 12,000 citizens,” said Juillerat, who lives in Leesburg in Highland County. “You’re there to truly service the citizens of Wilmington.”
Weyand, Rager and Juillerat said the department’s staff all believe in the value of being active in the community.
“We believe in it,” Rager said. “It helps us. You get the community involved here, and they help you, which helps you solve crimes and keeps you safer.”
“It makes my job easier in the future if you just go out, are nice to people, treat them with respect,” Juillerat said. “Really it’s preventive policing, in my mind.”
Being part of the community, Rager said, also keeps up morale.
“We like people,” Rager said. “We want them to be happy. … It’s nice when somebody waves at you and just wants to talk.
According to Weyand, Wilmington’s community support attracts officers, which, coupled with higher morale, allows the department to retain and recruit good talent.
As for property crimes, Weyand said the department works hard to protect residents, checking neighborhoods at random, using new police tactics, software and databases, identifying suspects through residents’ cameras and collaborating with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office.
“A lot of it just being out and being visible, trying to be a deterrent,” Weyand said. “We want to be responsive to the needs of our communities.”
Weyand also said a lot of property crime is committed by non-locals, including a couple that recently stole items from porches and sold them at an out-of-county flea market, so officers have to follow long trails outside the immediate area.
“We find ourselves always going to (other communities) because there seems to be an underlying theme amongst criminals: ‘Don’t do this stuff in your own back yard,’” Weyand said.
Weyand said residents concerned about suspicious activity should call the WPD, which can be called by dialing 911 or, for non-emergencies, 937-382-3833.
Weyand encourages residents to lock doors to their cars and homes at night.
“Most crime is deterred by a simple lock,” Weyand said. “Criminals are lazy by nature. Why make it easy?”
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.