Council approves 2020 Public Safety report

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 23, 2021

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GROSSE POINTE WOODS — In 2020, members of the Grosse Pointe Woods Department of Public Safety continued to serve residents and fight crime during a worldwide health pandemic.

That was one of many aspects of the past year that Public Safety Director John Kosanke highlighted in his annual report for 2020.

“The impact of the challenges faced worldwide throughout the year 2020 will be felt for years to come,” the report states. “Law enforcement professionals were challenged daily with learning how to fight crime and assist the public safely during the global pandemic in addition to keeping the peace during times of civil unrest and outcries to defund the police. The result in our department shows a significant change in statistics as well as the cancellation of annual community events such as the Public Safety Open House.”

The annual report was presented at the April 12 council meeting. The Department includes police, fire and emergency medical services. The City Council approved the report 7-0.

Each year, the Grosse Pointe Woods Department of Public Safety prepares an annual report of crime statistics for Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan Incident Crime Reporting, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Report.

The data is compiled from offenses reported to the Department of Public Safety, monthly police reports, and individual crime incident reports. The annual report’s primary objective is to provide a reliable set of criminal justice statistics for police administration, operations and management.

“As mayor I want to tell everyone how extremely proud our entire council is for the excellent work done by our Public Safety Department,” Mayor Arthur Bryant said. “Director John Kosanke continues to do a superior job. The wonderful information in this report is always available for public review.”

Bryant encourages residents to check out the report on the city’s website at www.gpwmi.us. It’s posted under annual reports on the Public Safety page.

According to the report, there was a 24% overall reduction in both index and non-index crimes in 2020 with a total of 446 crimes reported compared to 586 in 2019. Kosanke said the overall reduction in crime can be attributed largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdowns.

“With less places open, it reduces the opportunity for crime,” Kosanke said.

Index crimes are considered to be the most serious and include aggravated assault, arson, auto theft, burglary, criminal homicide, criminal sexual conduct, larceny-theft and robbery. Non-index offenses include damage to property, disorderly conduct, drug abuse violations, embezzlement, fraud, sex offenses, stolen property, weapons possession and other offenses.

According to the report, there was a decrease in all of the major index crimes with the exception of burglaries, which increased by two incidents, and criminal sexual conduct, which increased by one incident. Of the four criminal sexual conduct cases, two occurred more than 10 years ago and were just reported in 2020, the report states. The other two incidents were also belated and no charges were pressed.

“Although larceny continued to be the highest crime reported in the community, the total of 73 incidents is the lowest total in this category since 2015 and is nearly 50% less than the 145 crimes in that category reported last year. There were no reports of arson or robberies,” according to the report.

“Although fraud continued to be the highest non-index crime reported, it decreased by 10%. Decreases also were reported in the crimes of intimidation/stalking, hit and run, and non-aggravated assaults. (Driving under the influence) arrests decreased by 45% from 33 in 2019 to 18 in 2020,” the report states. “Crimes with increased totals since the previous year included public peace, sex offenses, and weapons laws. A significant increase was seen in malicious damage to property which increased by 136% from 14 crimes to 33. Retail fraud also saw a jump from nine crimes reported in 2019 to 20 in 2020.”

Over the past year, residents still reported fraud reports in which someone tried to swindle them out of money by calling or emailing them and making up a false story about needing money or gift cards. Sometimes people pretended to be calling on legal matters, from the U.S. Social Security office or from a bank. Kosanke reminded residents not to give out any personal information.

“Don’t do anything over the phone or give out any transactions over the phone. Don’t do anything by email,” Kosanke stressed. “You don’t know who is on the other end of that email or on that phone.”

There were 284 fire runs in 2020, a 17% increase from the 243 runs in 2019. The number of fires increased by 118% from 11 to 24 and the amount of fire damage increased from $73,600 in the previous year to $366,150.

The number of fire inspections decreased from 17 to 10. Residents may remember the severe thunderstorm that occurred June 10 in which the department received 43 calls reporting damaged power lines. The storm caused multiple fires, including one at a home of a family of six who lost all of their possessions.

“Defund the police” became a mantra nationwide among some politicians and protesters after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It didn’t affect us.

“We have a very supportive council and staff,” the public safety director said. “Residents know public safety is one of the highest priorities. We keep going on with our business even though we’re right in the heart of this pandemic.”

To date, 50% of the department’s members have received the COVID-19 vaccine by choice.

Officers were instructed to remain on the porches of residents unless it became absolutely necessary to enter the home.

“We changed how we answered calls to make sure we weren’t putting officers in harm’s way,” Kosanke said.

Officers used personal protective equipment and followed social distancing precautions. However, more than 25% of the Public Safety Department staff were ill with COVID-19 in December.

Other members stepped up to take on the increased workload and the neighboring mutual aid partners were available if needed.

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