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Crime down, quality of department up in 2014

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published April 27, 2015

ROYAL OAK — Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue released the department’s 2014 annual report last week, highlighting a 25 percent reduction in crime from four years ago and a department that is growing to meet the city’s expanding needs.

The 2014 Police Department Annual Report includes operational data, crime statistics and other information regarding police activity.

“We continue to see dramatic reductions in Part A crimes. They dropped 4.3 percent from the previous year, and that might not sound like a lot, but if you look at it over the last four years, that’s over 25 percent reduction in part A crimes,” O’Donohue said.

Part A crimes include murder, negligent homicide, robbery, assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, weapons violations, forcible and commercialized sexual offenses, and drug and gambling violations.

Part B crimes — which include fraud, nonviolent family offenses, drunken driving, disorderly conduct, arrestable traffic offenses and juvenile offenses — decreased by 3.38 percent from the previous year.

According to report data, total police reports increased from 40,744 in 2013 to 45,937 in 2014. The city comprises 11.83 square miles, and as of the 2010 census, had a population of 57,236 people.

A sampling of the reported crimes in 2014 includes one murder, 2,318 traffic accidents, 446 larcenies, 78 burglaries, three arsons, 10 forcible rapes, 342 simple assaults or intimidation, 478 narcotics violations, and 1,320 disorderly conducts.

As shown in the partial breakdown of reports, traffic accidents, narcotics violations, arson, forcible rapes and murders increased from the prior year. Murder and forcible rape increased by one. All other reported crimes were down.

Crimes like simple assaults and intimidation, burglary, and motor vehicle thefts were down considerably from 2005. In most cases, the reported crimes were down by about half, and burglary and motor vehicle thefts were down by about 75 percent.

O’Donohue said it does get complicated to compare crime statistics throughout the years because of how crimes are classified and reported.

“What’s not complicated, though, is that Royal Oak has had fewer home invasions, fewer vehicles stolen and fewer assaults than any other time on record,” O’Donohue said.

O’Donohue said that, in 2014, the city had 10 reported robberies, which was up one from the all-time low in 2011.

“A lot of this has to do with our leadership,” said Mayor Jim Ellison. “The chief is very well-respected by his people, and his command staff is phenomenal. When you put in good leadership and you have good officers, you can’t but turn it into a positive situation.”

Ellison said the chief has a good plan and good implementation.

“Citizens of Royal Oak should feel safe, because at this point, they are,” he said.

Other data shows that the department received 84,683 911 and nonemergency calls in 2014, and officers were dispatched to 44,616 incidents last year. The department issued 15,848 violations in 2014, up 783 from the prior year.

Department initiatives in 2014 included the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, community policing, sex offender registry checks, special events, school safety efforts and motel checks. In 2014, officers conducted 144 motel checks, resulting in 32 arrests.

Department personnel also participate in many philanthropic endeavors throughout the year.

O’Donohue said the department’s primary focus in 2014 was to rebuild the department — which has taken longer than expected — but, he said, he is pleased with the results so far.

Budget cuts caused the department to hit an all-time staffing low in 2011, so the department went to the public for a public safety millage. The millage was approved, and since then, the department has been working toward its goal of having 79 sworn officers. The chief said it will hit that early this year. A mixture of retirees and a policy of only hiring the best has kept the department from hitting the 79, but it is on track to hit that soon, according to the chief.

The department currently employs 51 officers, 28 ranked officials, and 16 support and civilian workers.

“We’ve hired more officers in this period of time than any time in the department’s history, and the new officers have been absolutely incredible additions,” O’Donohue said. “We’ve got some great people working in the Police Department, and they are very dedicated professionals.”

Ellison echoed O’Donohue’s sentiments as to the quality of the officers.

“We have gotten a lot of new officers in the past few years, college-educated guys, and they have high skill levels,” he said. “The whole culture of police enforcement has changed, and we are reaping the benefit of that, and so we are able to get more done with less people.”

One addition is officer Richard Chipman and K-9 Ryker. Ryker is cross-trained in narcotics detection and tracking. The duo is also assigned to the Southeast Oakland SWAT Team.

Looking forward to 2015, O’Donohue said his goal is to have the department fully staffed by midyear and add another K-9 unit using drug forfeiture money. The chief also intends to offer a citizens police academy in the fall.

The complete, interactive  2014 Royal Oak Police Department Annual Report is available at ROMI.gov.