Toledo, like the rest of the country, is not immune to crime. That’s why the Toledo Police Department exists, and why the officers who are sworn to protect and serve our community risk their lives every day.
Our city has faced tough challenges over the past several years, including budget woes, depleted manpower in our safety forces, and a crisis in community faith. The Police Department has had to change our approach to fighting crime, relying on new tactics while building on existing relationships with our community partners.
Despite these challenges — and perhaps because of them — the department’s procedures have been driven by internationally accepted best practices, which are evaluated by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
The commission sets recognized standards against which professional law enforcement agencies benchmark themselves, to maintain public accountability, limit liability and risk, and engage the community. These are the tenets by which our department operates.
Over the past year, the Police Department has launched our data-driven policing project, called ORION (Observation Research Intelligence Operations Network). Most citizens are familiar with our new camera system, but ORION and the concept of data-driven policing extend beyond the “eye in the sky.”
ORION allows us to incorporate data from service calls, intelligence gathering, and crime reporting to help us deploy resources effectively. Across the nation, this type of program is considered a best practice.
Data-driven policing helps to deter crime, improve officers’ response, and enable investigators to solve crimes. Last year, burglaries in Toledo declined by 22 percent from 2011. Our homicide detectives solved 83 percent of the crimes they investigated, compared to the national average of 52 percent.
As we continue to use data-driven initiatives, I am confident we will continue to see less crime and higher case-closure rates in Toledo. But data and police officers cannot prevent or solve crimes by themselves.
In any community, citizen participation is key. The accreditation commission emphasizes community engagement when it evaluates our department.
Whether our officers are working with block watch groups, mentoring school-aged children, or working with seniors to check the safety of elderly and shut-in residents, community engagement builds trust. It sets a positive example of citizen interaction with police.
This engagement is a two-way street. Police officers need the help of citizens to prevent and solve crimes; in return, we want to give back to this community in positive ways.
In 2012, we introduced the Toledo Community Initiative to Reduce Violence. This program brings together police officers, federal agents, prosecutors, judges, clergy, and social service organizations. We identify violent offenders with links to gangs and offer them an alternative that encourages them to leave criminal life behind.
Data indicate that this program is working and that gang-related crime has decreased. Other cities are looking to Toledo’s program as a model to replicate. Our police probation team is working with juvenile offenders to enable them to participate in community service and clear their records.
The Toledo Police Athletic League works with youths in sports such as boxing, baseball, basketball, and judo. Police officers volunteer their time to mentor young people to ensure they are reaching academic benchmarks and earning high school diplomas.
The Toledo Police Department is here to protect and serve the community. This is more than a slogan. It is how we live our lives while we carry out our duty to the citizens of Toledo.
In 2013, we will continue to find the best practices to protect our community. We’ll continue to engage the community to make Toledo better for us all.
Derrick Diggs is chief of the Toledo Police Department.