Bloomington’s police and fire chiefs held a joint press conference Thursday to give an update on public safety in the city over the past year. Mayor John Hamilton says he hopes it will become an annual tradition that will increase transparency between the city and its residents. Both departments highlighted successes and challenges they faced in 2016.
Chief Attributes Increase In Violent Crimes To Substance Abuse
The Bloomington Police Department says violent crimes made up only 1 percent of the calls it responded to last year, but that’s an increase from 2015.
Police Chief Mike Diekhoff says the jump is likely tied to substance abuse.
“We looked at some data and, of the robberies we had, I believe it was about 35 percent of them were home invasion robberies and 65 percent of those robberies the victims admitted to some sort of drug use or drug dealing occurring,” Diekhoff says.
The department is now focusing more of its resources on drug investigations. Diekhoff says downtown resource officers are also trying to connect people to mental health and addiction services.
The number of aggravated assaults rose sharply, jumping from 204 to 256.
Police, Fire Respond To Overdoses On Daily Basis
Diekhoff says officers are also responding to overdoses on an almost daily basis.
“The heroin epidemic isn’t getting any better,” Diekhoff says. “Our overdose calls aren’t decreasing.”
The police department responded to so many overdoses last year it ran out of its supply of naloxone, an overdose antidote that can revive people. Diekhoff says his department now has a fresh supply.
Bloomington Fire Chief Jason Moore says he’s looking at ways to improve his department’s overdose response.
“This is a lifesaving thing we do,” Moore says. “We are gathering information and, I think, as a combined force, we are going to start analyzing some of the things we’re doing, some of the things we may be able to change to do it better.”
City Continuing With Its Video Camera Pilot Program
The police department says it’s installed some of the cameras it purchased as part of a pilot program aimed at increasing downtown safety. The city announced the program last summer, after police saw an increase in reports of aggressive panhandling and overall crime downtown.
Diekhoff says there were some technical issues with the cameras, but there is now one up at Seminary Park.
“We also purchased some cameras that we can move around so, if we have problems in any part of the city, we can deploy those cameras, mount them, record that information and try to resolve any issues or problems that may be involved with that area,” he says.
The police department also increased patrols downtown to help deter crime.
Majority Of False Fire Alarm Calls Come From IU
Almost half of the Bloomington Fire Department’s false alarm calls come from Indiana University. IU accounted for 43 percent of the false alarm calls the department responded to year. That’s actually down from 2015.
Chief Moore says the number shouldn’t be surprising.
“IU has more alarmed buildings than the city,” Moore says. “So for us to have more false alarms due to more alarms is natural.”
Moore says there was a drop in the number of malicious false alarms last year. He credits IU with taking an aggressive stance on the issue and educating students about the consequences of pulling alarms.
“In previous years we have had hundreds of calls that go out for this,” he says. “This year, we’ve only had four.”
The fire department will continue working with IU to reduce the number of false alarm calls.
Lack Of Working Smoke Detectors In Homes An Issue
Bloomington’s fire chief says one of his main goals for 2017 is increasing the number of smoke alarms in the city.
Moore says 88 percent of Bloomington residents who’ve died in fires over the past ten years didn’t have working alarms.
“We don’t want to have anybody die,” he says. “I don’t want any fires, but if we do have a fire I want an alarm to go off and people to know to get out.”
Moore says only two people died in fires last year, but the fire department’s overall number of calls went up.