June 18--Despite a nationwide trend showing a drop in crime over the past year, Toledo was among those communities where incidents of violence increased, however slightly, according to FBI statistics.
Numbers released recently in the preliminary Uniform Crime Report showed that violent crime in Toledo increased -- although by only 0.5 percent -- to 2,868 incidents in 2011, up from 2,854 incidents the year before.
Included in those figures are 7 more homicides, 49 more robberies, and 17 more incidents of arson. Numbers of forcible rapes and aggravated assaults decreased in 2011 from 2010.
Elsewhere in Ohio, violent crime in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Dayton followed the national trend and decreased. In Akron, the numbers were up.
City officials have ideas on how to combat the growing numbers.
Mayor Mike Bell's administration points to new programs targeting gang members and building a camera system throughout the city.
Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, said he believes the rise in crime can be tackled not with programs but with more officers.
"I think the numbers speak for themselves. As [police officers] have gone down in numbers, crime goes up," said Mr. Wagner. "That's not because of the economy. The economy is better now than it has been."
The FBI has been collecting crime statistics from police departments throughout the nation for the past 80 years. The 2011 report is based on information collected from 14,009 law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Overall, the country experienced a 4 percent decrease in violent crime, the FBI reported.
Toledo mayoral spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei agreed that police officer numbers are down, but said it was a situation that existed prior to the mayor taking office. She noted that the mayor has since hired 79 officers and a new class is scheduled for this fall. "I think [these numbers are] frustrating because we see how hard our officers work," she said.
"I think we're implementing new programs because we looked at the numbers and the old programs don't have the result that we need," she added. "So we're looking to new ideas and new technology."
Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara said Sunday he needed to talk to police Chief Derrick Diggs before commenting on the statistics.
Crime statistics from Ohio's five largest cities were included in the newly released preliminary numbers for cities with populations over 100,000 residents. A complete report is expected to be released this fall.
Toledo was one of two cities that report crime statistics to the FBI to show an increase in homicides in 2011 compared with the previous year.
"There is no statistical value to the number of homicides in a community," Councilman D. Michael Collins said Sunday afternoon. "Homicides are not a suppressible crime and are not a valid indicator of the violence rate in the community or the quality of the law enforcement mission."
Mr. Collins then said that taking crimes other than homicides and considering the share that was perpetrated by people under 18 would be a better such indicator.
In general, the Midwest was the only region in the country to have more homicides last year than in 2010, according to the preliminary crime report released last week.
The FBI report states that there were 30 homicides in Toledo in 2011, but police and Blade archives show there were 36, without counting the two police-involved shootings.
The FBI reports 23 homicides in Toledo in 2010 and Blade archives list 25.
Excluding homicides, the largest percentage gain was in motor vehicle thefts, which increased 22 percent to 1,465 incidents in 2011.
Overall property crime figures were unavailable because the department did not, according to the FBI's report, include thefts.
Overall violent crime in Toledo was up less than 1 percent, increasing to 2,868 from 2,854 incidents.
Robbery and burglary were both up -- burglary showing the greater incident increase, with 1,079 more reports in 2011 -- while forcible rape and aggravated assault both dropped.
With a population of 287,418, Toledo is most similar in size to Cincinnati, which has a population of 297,160. Cincinnati's numbers include 3,057 violent crimes, including 61 homicides, more than double the number recorded in Toledo. Cleveland dropped from among the 10 most dangerous cities in the country but still documented more violent crimes per capita than any other city in Ohio -- 5,413 incidents.
Mr. Wagner said that in Toledo there are 580 sworn police officers. That number is down from the 599 officers working when Mayor Bell was elected, he said.
The department's authorized strength is 775, Mr. Wagner added.
Although recognizing that the increase in violent crime is small, Mr. Wagner said it is a number that city officials need to consider.
"We can barely keep up with the calls for service, much less be proactive in the problem areas," he said. "[The officers] are frustrated because they can't do any proactive work, and if they do then other crews get backed up."
Blade staff writers Mike Sigov and Taylor Dungjen contributed to this report.
Contact Erica Blake at: [email protected] or 419-213-2134.
Copyright 2012 - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio