Duluth Police Chief Says Violent Crime Is Not On The Rise

DULUTH, Minn. – Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken is talking crime statistics in the city, and how public perception – often times on social media – is far from reality.

The chief says violent crime is not on the rise, but that any crime is one too many.

“You see it on social media. I see it where people say we’re less safe today than we were before — and the statistics don’t bear out,” Tusken said.

Tusken says the stats don’t back up the thought by some that the city’s violent crime incidents are going up.

He says social media’s saturation of crime is partly to blame for the skewed perception.

“Regurgitated on a loop over and over again and it diminishes their sense of safety,” Tusken said.

For perspective, Chief Tusken points to the number of homicides annually over the past 10 years.

Data shows either zero homicides like in 2011 or as many as three most recently in 2018. Compare that to six homicides in 1999, another six in 2000 and seven in 2001.

Robberies in 2008 hit a high of 129 cases compared to 67 in 2018.

And for an even bigger comparison, burglaries in Duluth reached 1,770 in 1980 compared to 495 in 2018.

“So we will routinely hear about the good old days when people didn’t like their doors, and when I remind people I speak publicly, I say there’s over 17-hundred burglaries in the good old days you are referencing, and now we’ve got it down into the mid-400s. That’s a substantial improvement in safety,” Tusken explained.

As for shooting incidents, there are 10 so far in 2019, compared to 15 in 2018, and 20 in 2017 between Jan. 1 and July 23.

Tusken believes community policing and data-driven attacks on crime have all contributed to keeping the numbers at bay, and he says the pro-activeness from the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force has been a big help.

Last year, he says, the force executed 199 search warrants and took 100 guns off the streets.

“We look at every time we recover a firearm as an opportunity to take a gun out of the hands of somebody who perhaps would use it to do violence,” Tusken said.

And on the issue of transparency, Chief Tusken says there’s never a reason to not provide information to neighborhoods — other than when it could harm an open investigation.

“It does not benefit us to not tell exactly what’s going on in the community so they are aware. There are times when we hold back information because there’s an ongoing criminal investigation that we don’t want to disrupt or perhaps compromise.  But that is never done so that the community isn’t aware,” Tusken said.

Meanwhile, auto thefts continue to be a problem in Duluth.

Chief Tusken says the department has landed a grant that’ll fund a dedicated officer for two years to handle auto theft investigations with the hopes of nabbing repeat offenders and cutting down on the number of those thefts, which was 212 last year.

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