Survey results exceed police hopes

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Ted Sullivan
Saturday, January 9, 2010
— It could have been a risk for the Janesville Police Department to conduct a community survey.

After all, the department was asking people to judge its performance, programs and services.

The results, which would be made public, could have been embarrassing and forced the department to make changes.

Now, the results are in: People feel safe in Janesville, approve of police and think they’re doing a good job.

“I felt it would be positive, but I didn’t think it would be this good,” Chief Dave Moore said. “It was much more positive than I even expected.”

The survey’s results will be presented to the Janesville City Council on Monday night, and the highlights include:

n Eighty-three percent of residents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of life in Janesville.

n Ninety percent said they were comfortable or very comfortable approaching police officers or department staff.

n Ninety-seven percent said they felt safe or very safe walking alone in their neighborhood during the day, while 77 percent felt safe or very safe at night.

n Thirty-six percent said they felt unsafe or very unsafe walking alone at night outside their neighborhood.

n People said schools, parks, roads, stores and the workplace are safe.

Thirteen percent of residents, however, felt the department did a poor job of enforcing drug laws. Forty-two percent felt the department did a good or very good job.

Moore said the drug unit performs at a high level. He said the negative results indicate the department needs to do a better job informing residents of the drug unit’s successes.

“I firmly believe that our drug investigations and street crimes unit provides exemplary service to the community,” Moore said. “Our drug and gang unit is performing at a very high level.”

The city contracted with the UW-Whitewater’s Center for Political Science and Public Policy Research to conduct the survey. It cost about $5,000.

“Overall, residents of Janesville are pretty satisfied with police services,” said Susan Johnson, co-director of the center.

Of 3,000 surveys mailed, 874 were returned. The survey’s 29 percent response rate was very good, Johnson said.

“With these sorts of surveys, getting between 5 and 20 percent is normal,” Johnson said.

Residents in northwest, southeast and southwest neighborhoods felt less safe than the rest of the city. People in the Fourth Ward neighborhood felt the least safe.

“But, that being said, all of them feel safe in their neighborhoods,” Moore said.

Residents judged drug, alcohol and gang problems as the biggest issues facing police in the next five years. The department also believes those problems are serious and has focused on them, Moore said.

“It’s good that this community recognizes the harm that drug and gang activity does to our community and how it is responsible for other crimes,” Moore said. “We’ve got a very well-informed public when it comes to crimes.”

Moore had the survey done to measure the department’s success. He wanted to know the community’s expectations and perception of the department.

The surveys were sorted by patrol area to give officers information about what residents need in certain neighborhoods.

Overall, the survey didn’t reveal any glaring problems with the department, Moore said. The results will be used for long-term planning, but no immediate changes are needed.

The survey will be done again in five years to measure changes.

Last updated: 12:43 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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