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Guest opinion

Cunningham: East Side crime cut in half

All of Ward 2 except for some neighborhoods in the Ft. Lowell area are part of the Tucson Police Department's Operations Division East. The command staff for ODE holds quarterly meetings with neighborhood leaders and interested citizens called the Division Advisory Committee.

The latest one of those meetings was this week, and we had some interesting news. Crime on the East Side is down, and down considerably.

As TPD Capt. Justin Lane reported at the meeting, crime has been trending down in his division, which includes just about all of Tucson east of Craycroft. After hitting a peak in July 2018, Part One crimes (including murder, assault, robbery and burglary) have decreased by over 50 percent. ODE had 74 burglaries last March, while in March of this year, we only had 35 reported. Grand theft auto also declined during that period.

Lane credits two things with the decrease. One is that he now has between 10 and 15 more deployable officers on any given day than before. Also, the redeployment of motor officers and detectives to the various divisions means that, in a pinch, he has more people to call on if he needs them. The new pay package that my colleagues and I have approved means that there are fewer officers looking for opportunities elsewhere as well.

Lane also credits a different policing strategy. An examination of crime statistics showed that most crime was committed by habitual offenders. The emphasis has been on those offenders. He is still having the intelligence unit go over the results, but the numbers seem to bear out that this has been working.

For example, there was a "rip crew" working the East Side last fall. They would steal large vehicles from construction sites and then use those vehicles to steal ATMs. If you look at the graph he presented, you can see a noticeable dip in incidents after they were apprehended.

Are things perfect? No. Capt. Lane admitted he'd like more officers and that he'd always like more officers. The numbers on aggravated assaults are not consistently down. Still, Lane and all of the officers at ODE deserve a great deal of credit for their hard work to keep us safe.

Paul Cunningham represents Ward 2 on the Tucson City Council.

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