Our views: Good news on crime boosts city
Word in the jail and on the street is that Janesville isn't a good place to bring your guns or drugs.
That's because the city's police department doesn't put up with crimes and misbehavior. It responds quickly and aggressively, and it ensures that trouble spots don't remain trouble for long.
That picture emerged last week in the release of new crime statistics and an interview with Chief David Moore.
The news was nearly all good, and that's critically important for a community still on the mend from the loss of its biggest employer—General Motors—a little more than five years ago.
After the blow of GM's loss, Janesville and Rock County vowed to work harder at economic development. The area must attract new businesses and jobs to replace those that were lost, and many people and organizations have devoted considerable time and energy to the effort.
The big wins have been few, but the small ones—mostly in the form of local businesses expanding and adding workers—are beginning to show. Much work remains, however, and the positive news on the crime front should put another mark in the plus column for Janesville.
The bottom line is Janesville's crime rate hit a 20-year low in 2013. Among the components, violent crime dropped 8 percent, while property crime fell 21 percent. Those drops were better than the state and national numbers.
What's behind the decline? An aging population and higher incarceration rates could be factors, but Moore believes the biggest reason is his department's crime strategy. The chief has always been a straight shooter, and his credibility is high with the community and us.
So when he talks about his department's approach and effectiveness, we believe him.
Moore said the leaders in his department have been “banging the drum” on the importance of community safety to efforts to attract businesses and residents, “and the officers have bought into it.”
The strategy involved focusing on the two most-troubled neighborhoods: the Old Fourth Ward and Look West. If those neighborhoods stayed safe, all of Janesville would stay safe.
Police targeted street-level drug dealers and drug houses and went after the perpetrators as soon as they were identified.
“If somebody tries to set up shop here, it's not very long-lived,” Moore said.
“The talk at the jail and the probation office and among offenders is you don't bring your guns to Janesville, and you don't bring your drugs to Janesville.”
The good people of the Fourth Ward saw and appreciated the initiative and the results. A neighborhood committee sent a bouquet of roses to the department last month, with one rose for every drug house that was shut down in the past year.
Janesville's backers have much to tout as they promote the community as a great place to live and work—strong schools, abundant parkland, excellent public services.
It can add a sharply declining crime rate to the list. That's great news for those who are here and those who are yet to come.