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Published: Sunday, 2/20/2000

Crime is down in Toledo yet again


The crime rate in the city of Toledo last year did the same thing it did the previous year and the year before that. It dropped.

In marked contrast to the earlier part of the decade, when drive-by shootings were a nightly occurrence, police say the neighborhoods are safer for residents now.

Last year's figures for Toledo crime are incomplete and have not been sent to the FBI for the agency's annual Uniform Crime Report. The statistics must be finalized before they are sent to the agency.

However, data through September shows double-digit declines in some violent crime categories. Assaults dropped 39 per cent; auto theft, 22 per cent, and rape, 17 per cent.

Homicides remained the same. Burglaries declined about 9 per cent, and thefts were about 5 per cent lower than the previous year. Robberies fell about 3 per cent.

There are many reasons behind the crime-rate drop. Some point to the bustling economy and low unemployment rate as well as police efforts to crack down on gangs and drug activity.

Still others credit judges for handing out stiffer sentences for violent offenders and adding years to sentences for the use of guns during the commission of felonies.

Examples of the crime drop are the improvements made by the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority. The public housing authority, which was one of the worst in the country less than 10 years ago, is now one of the best.

"We have seen the same trend here. Our crime statistics are way down,'' Dennis Morgan, director of the agency for the last five years, said.

The community-oriented policing practiced by Toledo police and the Lucas County sheriff substations throughout the county's public housing complexes are among the reasons that Mr. Morgan believes crime has decreased.

"They have made a world of difference,'' he said, adding that the authority has stepped up efforts to screen applicants and enforce visitor restrictions.

The local crime-drop trend mirrors a FBI report that showed serious crimes plunged 10 per cent in the first six months of last year. The national decline in crime in the U.S. began 71/2 years ago, the FBI said.

Crime seems to have slowed as well in some Toledo's suburbs. Sylvania Police Detective Sgt. Bob Pohlman said serious crime dropped about 25 per cent last year. He said there was a noticeable decline in thefts and burglaries.

The Sylvania police department last year instituted bicycle and motorcycle patrols and assigned officers to patrol Northview High School. Sergeant Pohlman said he did not know whether the drop in crime was directly related to those types of community-oriented policing programs, but "indirectly it has a little bit to do with it.''

While crime is way down on the streets, the number of misdemeanor cases handled in Toledo Municipal Court have increased in recent years. While criminal and traffic cases decreased about 6.5 per cent, the court logged its second busiest year.



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