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Amid Active Stretch, Cedar Rapids Crime Rates Steady

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - In a year that has already seen seven homicide victims in Cedar Rapids, police acknowledge that gun violence and reports of gunshots fired throughout the city remain a top priority.

"We have a plan in place to address that but that's a concern," said Lt. Cory McGarvey on Friday. "One of our top priorities is to get a handle on that."

Last weekend, Cedar Rapids police handled multiple reports of shootings or 'shots fired'. Police confirmed at least two shootings late on April 19, both in the same Westdale Court neighborhood on the city's southwest side. Two people injured but no fatalities.

Yet this has been a striking year with five cases of homicide that led to seven victims. The two most recent homicides, both in early April, remain unsolved at this point.

Looking at the overall crime trends for the first three months of 2014, one element really pops from the page.

A rise in police calls in two neighborhoods.

Data from January 1-March 31, comparing 2013 to 2014.
Cedar Hills: 976 in 2013 -- 1,532 in 2014 (a 57% increase)
Wellington Heights: 1,154 in 2013 - 1,722 in 2014 (a 49% increase)

Why the sharp jump in police calls? McGarvey says it's because of the police themselves. He said, whenever an officer calls in an activity, that counts as a "police call".

"That's because we have had a 100% increase in the number of foot patrols and about 80% increase in the number of COPS Projects," said McGarvey. "(A COPS Project) is an officer is simply, pro-actively, addressing a problem of complaint given to him or her by email or a neighbor had stopped by."

Andrea Rowland, a longtime resident of the area, said she sees more police.

"We've seen more police patrols, it always picks up in the spring," said Rowland on Friday as she was walking her dog. "Lately, I can go several blocks and see more than one (officer) on each corner."

Three blocks away, Rhasian Foote, who said he has lived in the area for nearly 20 years, hopes for more frequent patrols.

"I've got my kids here and I like to walk around with my kids, go to the park and there's a lot of stuff going around and it makes me not feel safe to be outside."

Other takeaways from the CRPD's "Neighborhood Activity Summary" for this three-month period.

- Overall police calls are up about 10%. (32,278 - 2013 to 35,264 - 2014).
- Arrests are down slightly (2,283 to 2,113).

- On specific crimes, criminal mischief and theft cases are up slightly while drug cases saw a slight decrease.

McGarvey prefers to look through a five-year crime trend in the Wellington Heights neighborhood, from 2009 to 2013.

Each year, police calls fluctuate between 6,025 (2013) and 7,023 (2012).

- Crimes trending up in Wellington Heights from 2009-2013: domestic abuse (slightly) and disorderly conduct.
- Crimes trending down: burglaries, driving while license under suspension, car thefts and public intoxication.
- Most of the categories appear relatively stable in the data.

"It's important to talk about the five-year crime trends in the core neighborhood," said McGarvey. "For Wellington Heights in general, the crime trends we're seeing in the early part of 2014 are in line with what we see on a five-year average."

From his office at the police sub-station at 15th Street and 1st Avenue SE, McGarvey acknowledges the work of building trust within law enforcement and the people who live nearby.

"It's getting better," McGarvey, a twenty-year veteran of the CRPD, said. "Not perfect but we can do better."

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