Bloomington sees rise in gun violence, rapes in 2019 public safety report
The Bloomington police and fire departments’ chiefs presented the 2019 public safety report Tuesday at the Bloomington Police Headquarters. They discussed statistics, new changes and goals for 2020.
The annual report includes statistics about crimes, total calls and department operations as well as comparisons to other years. Mayor John Hamilton introduced police chief Michael Diekhoff and fire chief Jason Moore before the presentation began.
Diekhoff said there was a 4.7% overall decrease in the crime rate, but there was an increase in violent crimes such as rape and aggravated assault.
Diekhoff said increased reporting of these crimes is part of the reason for the rise of crimes such as rapes. There was a 55% increase of rapes reported in 2019. He said there was a similar increase in 2017 when IU began an initiative to address sexual assault.
For many crimes, especially rape and aggravated assault, the people involved knew each other, Diekhoff said. Of the assaults reported, 49.7% of cases resulted from domestic and interpersonal violence, and 80% of those were between people who knew each other.
BPD will look to partner with Middle Way House to work on education efforts to lower the frequency of these crimes, Diekhoff said .
“We will be working with different partners to see what we can do to raise awareness and prevent these crimes from happening,” Diekhoff said.
Diekhoff said 2019 saw a rise in gun violence with a 41.4% increase of crimes committed with a firearm. There is a rising number of juveniles found with guns, according to the report.
“We have serious concerns about gun violence, gun activity and certain types of crime that are increasing,” Hamilton said.
The Insurance Service Office ranked the Bloomington Fire Department in the top 2% of rated fire departments in the country and the best in Monroe County.
“We really do want to thank our firefighters for taking their job seriously and in some cases putting themselves in significant risk to pull citizens out,” Moore said.
He said there hasn’t been a fire-related death in three years.
Moore and Diekhoff also highlighted community outreach programs.
Diekhoff mentioned the success of the Public Safety Cadet Program and the Citizens Police Academy. Moore said the BFD wanted to increase their presence in schools and at IU.
“Our Citizens Academy is very popular,” Diekhoff said. “We try to go over many of the aspects of the police department, so anyone attending that would have a really good picture of what we do.”
One of BPD’s primary goals, Diekhoff said, is helping to create the Crisis Diversion Center, which will help those suffering from substance abuse disorders.
The center will be funded with a budget of $2.1 million from a grant provided by IU Health, the City of Bloomington, Monroe County and local businesses. Diekhoff said the center needed to be established first before creating community programs. One of these programs is a pre-arrest program.
“We will be starting a pre-arrest diversion program in 2020 that will divert people who have done minor crimes away from the justice system and get them into treatment,” Diekhoff said.
Diekhoff also said only some officers had in-car and body-worn cameras, but now all officers have them. The new body-worn camera system was updated and can record over 50 gigabytes of video data every 24 hours. One update is that the camera will automatically turn on when officer unholsters their firearm.
The fire department has purchased two sets of protective equipment for each firefighter to reduce the possibility of them being exposed to carcinogens. Moore also said that by the end of this year all the primary response vehicles will be new.