Delaware’s population has been rising steadily for years, but the city’s police department saw a decrease in reported crime in 2018.

The department filed 2,368 offense reports during the year – a 9.4 percent decrease from 2017.

Police Capt. Adam Moore said while crime numbers are generally down across the United States, the local decrease “is directly attributable to the work that our officers are out there doing.

“We have a lot of guys who are proactive. They’re looking for problems in the community,” Moore said. “They’re out there trying to address them. ... We have patrol officers who know what it means to be part of the community. They know when they see a problem, it’s not somebody else’s job. They go right at trying to solve that problem.”

Among the officers and the department, he said, “That’s our mindset. ... Addressing problems as you see them is really why those numbers are the way they are.”

Training and partnering with other agencies also play a role, he said.

“Training is a very important component. You send folks out to do a job, you’ve got to make sure that they’re trained properly. We certainly value training and we spend a lot of time training here. We look for training opportunities in the department, looking for ways we can work more efficiently,” he said.

Moore said opioids are a national problem, and addiction is an underlying cause of many crimes.

While the department often makes drug arrests – 374 in 2018 and 382 in 2017 – Moore said it can’t “arrest its way out” of the drug problem.

The department works with agencies such as the Maryhaven treatment center, which has locations in Columbus and Marion, and Delaware Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services.

Officers can make referrals to such agencies electronically from their cruisers, he said.

All officers are equipped with Narcan, a medication used to treat those suffering opioid overdose, and the department follows up with those who have overdosed regarding counseling or treatment.

“We really work well with our community partners,” Moore said.

Those partnerships have benefits in more than drug-related cases, he said.

Officers on a call might see a situation “is not necessarily a police problem, but this person needs some help,” Moore said. “Can I reach out to Helpline (a 24-hour crisis hotline), can I reach out to Maryhaven, can I reach out to the mental health recovery services board? What community partners can I reach out to to help me help this person?”

While crime is down, the department did see a 2018 increase in behavioral incidents – 125 compared to 109 in 2017.

Behavioral incidents include those in which people are experiencing symptoms of mental illness and those who “at that given moment ... are in crisis, which basically means that the conditions in their life have surpassed their ability to cope,” Moore said. “That could be a person that recently got divorced, lost their job or is going bankrupt and has become overwhelmed with life. They have done something that has caused us to be called, or we’ve gotten called because they’re family or they don’t know who else to call.

“We certainly are taking a lot more of those reports than when I was a young police officer, but I think that’s probably attributable to the fact the police department sometimes is the agency of last resort,” he said.

During such calls, Moore said, the department is aided by the fact all officers have taken crisis-intervention training, a 40-hour program sponsored by Delaware Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services.

Deanna Brant, the agency’s executive director, said the city’s increased population – from 34,753 in 2010 to 39,267 in 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates – is only one factor behind the increase behavioral calls.

“In the last several years, there has been increased availability and access to crisis services in Delaware and Morrow counties,” she said. “The public and law enforcement are more aware of those services and how to connect with them, ideally in real time.”

The police department’s crisis-intervention training has helped officers make such connections, she said, and residents know they can call the police to reach such help.

Another benefit of the training, Moore said, is that it sometimes helps officers diffuse a potentially violent situation.

The department’s community involvement also extends to connecting with the city’s residents, young and old, he said.

“We really worked hard last year with programs like Coffee with Cops, a summer basketball program, a youth police academy and Fish With a Cop,” he said.

The fishing program was a daylong event at Blue Limestone Park. Using an Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant, the department provided more than 100 fishing poles to youngsters.

“It was a great event,” Moore said.

The department made 2,202 adult arrests in 2018 and 2,529 in 2017. Charges were filed against 345 juveniles in 2018 and 290 in 2017. Traffic citations totaled 1,658 in 2018 and 2,012 in 2017.

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