SL Police study finds many major crimes are on the decline, but a troubling rise can be seen in child abuse cases
One doesn't have to thumb too far into the thick, just-released annual report of the Storm Lake Public Safety Administration to find both the good news and the bad news.
The good news is that major crimes in the city in 2004 showed a decrease to one of the lower levels in recent history, with burglaries, assaults, sexual assaults, robberies, arson and several other areas of crime on the decline.
The bad new jumps off the pages of statistics like a slap in the face.
Juvenile arrests hit an all-time high, the 575 arrests during 2004 eclipsing the 507 mark of the previous year. The types of crimes that juveniles are often involved in have in many cases also risen in number.
During 2004, 28 arrests of people under age 18 were made for assault. There were 35 for theft, 30 for vandalism, 32 liquor violations, 22 drug abuse arrests, 48 for disorderly conduct. Police also fielded 185 cases of truancy.
Consider this daunting statistic: underage arrests have almost exactly tripled since 1996, one of the first years Storm Lake officers reported the statistics.
When children were not involved in crime, innocents were all too often being touched by it.
Child abuse cases set a new record in Storm Lake, the 46 cases of physical or sexual abuse in 2004 being up sharply from 38 a year before. The number of cases has more than doubled since 2000.
For police, 2004 was a challenging year. Officers responded to a record-breaking 44,336 calls.
That's an average of over 121 calls a day - and made 300 more adult criminal/traffic arrests overall. The department was shorthanded during most of 2004 due to resignations and a hiring freeze, but has since returned to full strength.
Police tackled infestations of crows and wild cats during the year, and made over 800 contacts in Operation Clean Sweep, urging property owners to clean up nuisance conditions.
During 2004, there were no murders or attempted murders, arsons or kidnappings. In records going back a decade, Storm Lake has never before had a year with none of those kind of major crime incidents.
There were six sexual assault cases in the past year, 15 suicide/attempted suicides, 70 assaults, and 143 domestic clashes. There were 271 property thefts and 202 vandalisms, both the highest totals in a number of years. There were also 114 burglaries and three robberies.
Police fielded 66 missing persons cases, 35 transient assists, and performed a whopping 1,279 bar checks.
Among adult arrests, the highest non-traffic offense was public intoxication, with 228 busts, followed by liquor law violations (156), assault (120) and drugs (110). There were five arrests for sexual assault, 19 for forgery, five for weapons violations, four for illegal gambling, seven for child endangerment, and 99 for Operating While Intoxicated.
There were over 1,900 adult traffic charges, but officers also issued 2,757 warnings. Adult arrests totaled 3,905, up from last year, but down sharply from the all-time high of almost 5,700 in 1999.
Police do keep track of arrests by race and gender.
In Storm Lake, men do the lion's share of crime. In non-traffic criminal adult arrests, men were arrested 1,022 times to just 251 for women. Among juveniles, boys were arrested 262 times, girls 62.
Caucasians made up the bulk of arrests by ethnicity, with whites accounting for about 58 percent of all arrests. Hispanics arrests made up nearly 33 percent, Asians just over 7 percent, blacks less than 1.5 percent, and Native American and other ethnic groups half a percent of the total.
While motor vehicle accidents were up in 2004, with 407 reports, injuries in accidents continue to decline. Only 32 people were hurt in accidents in Storm Lake in 2004, compared to 44 the previous year. Perhaps with increased use of seatbelts, injuries have declined steadily from 111 in 1995.
If you think you see police cars rolling a lot, you're right. Officers logged nearly 188,000 miles during 2004, including over 350 miles in bicycle patrols.
Amid all this activity, the Storm Lake Police budget was actually down for 2004-05, the first decrease in the statistics dating back to 1995. The 2004-05 budget was $1.68 million, down from almost $1.72 million the previous year. The budget had increased steadily since standing at about $806,000 a decade ago.