City of Delaware Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski reported Tuesday that crime is down in the city for the third year in a row.
Pijanowski said that while there were a few outliers, namely burglary, which increased by 14 reports in 2019, the vast majority of crimes decreased in 2019 as the overall number of reports fell to 2,238 from 2,368 in 2018.
Pijanowski added the number of reports taken over the years has continued to decrease each and every year. For instance, in 2016, police took 2,850 reports. That number fell to 2,614 in 2017.
Pijanowski credits the downward trend in crime to the police department’s approach of focusing on the causes of crimes, which he said is similar to treating a disease instead of just symptoms.
“(It was) another year where a lot of the numbers were down,” he said. “We’ve worked really hard over the last several years to become a problem-solving department.
“Over the last several years we’ve recognized that the drugs are causing a lot of the quality of life issues in our neighborhoods, so we’ve done a really good job of making sure we’re active in those areas where the drug trade is active. We keep displacing drug dealers, which keeps crimes in those communities down,” Pijanowski added.
Delaware’s police chief went on to say his officers deserve praise for the way they handle issues in the city.
“This is a hard-working department,” Pijanowski said. “At any one time I was down six patrol officers who were in academies or training. The fact that we had the successes we had, to me, is a testament to the work that our guys do. They don’t just go from point A to point B. We try to be a problem-solving department. Our guys are very responsive to local problems.”
Problem solving and dealing with underlying causes will remain a focus in 2020, thanks to a new position being created in the department.
“We’ve also been looking at addressing some of the fundamental issues created by mental health issues and addiction issues, and where those cross over with the criminal justice system,” Pijanowski said. “If we can work with those foundational issues, we can keep people out of the criminal justice system. In 2020, we are taking a big step working with Delaware-Morrow Mental Health Services Recovery Board to get a full-time service coordinator position.”
Pijanowski explained the service coordinator will do follow-up visits after certain types of incidents like drug overdoses or behavioral health incidents to make sure the involved persons know what resources are available to them.
“There are underlying public health issues that, for no better reason, are dealt with in the criminal justice system that are better dealt with in the public health system,” Pijanowski said. “That’s our goal. To do transfers into public health instead of the jail to get help. We’ve done well with that, and we will continue that into 2020.”
Pijanowski said the police department recently built its own firing range on U.S. Route 23, and it will be used to conduct more frequent trainings for officers. He added officers currently get four days of range training a year on average, but with their own space, they can increase that to once a month.
“Scenario training is really recommended in terms of learning how to implement the tools and tactics you have in a realistic environment but one that is safe so you can take that out into the street with you,” Pijanowski said. “We expanded our in-house trainers and expanded our training sessions. These are things they are seeing coming from our response to crime or things that are in the news or things that are in the courts. Things that are on point to what the issues are today. To me, a well-trained department is a well-disciplined department that is taking care of its community.”
Pijanowski said the lion’s share of the range was built with drug seizure funds, and he is glad it was built so “economically.”
Moving forward, Pijanowski said the police department will be focused on dealing with speeding issues within the city, specifically in residential areas. He said a lot of residents report anecdotal speeding issues, but 2019 was the first year where the police saw “verified problems” when it came to speeding in certain areas within the city. He said the department will be using “the three Es” to address the issue: engineering, educating and enforcement.
Pijanowski said police will be working with city engineers to see if there are ways to reduce speeding in certain areas and will then work to educate residents with the hope that they don’t have to begin enforcing in those areas.
“We try to do things a little more holistically and not just hammer-and-nail enforcement,” Pijanowski said. “We can’t address speeding issues with just one of the Es. You really have to do all three. We need to be very, very targeted. Right now, we aren’t getting speed-related crashes in neighborhoods, but we don’t want it to get to that point, so we are going to do work in those areas to address it.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.