Our New Report Card
Last Wednesday night, the Ukiah City Council and the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) held a strategic planning workshop to discuss the results of a recent department review, and to adopt measurements for future performance in the form of an annual report card.
Before I tell you about our findings, I think it’s important to share our strategic planning process.
If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know that our mission at UPD is to help others – to make Ukiah as safe as possible. To help us accomplish our mission, we’ve been following our strategic plan entitled, Measuring What Matters Most, for almost five years (2010-2015).
Our goal has been to deliver quality police services, and to measure the delivery of these services through clearly defined goals and performance measures.
We developed this plan back in 2008 and 2009 by asking community members to define what is important in terms of safety and quality of life. From your suggestions, we established five specific goals for the delivery of police services:
• Reducing Crime and the Fear of Crime
• Improving the Quality of Life in Our Neighborhoods
• Enhancing Community and Police Partnerships
• Developing Personnel
• Continued Accountability
These five goals have become extremely important to us as we strive to achieve our mission. As our title says, these goals form the basis of Measuring What Matters Most.
With our plan nearing the end of its five-year span, the City Council and UPD decided that spending our limited time and money on developing a new plan wasn’t needed. Instead, the City Council asked that we continue with the goals established in our plan, and develop a new system to report annually on our progress.
This new system was the basis of our new report – Strategic Plan Review 2014. In the review, we defined annual report card measurements so we can have a simple guide to measure our department’s overall performance.
To create the measurements for our new report card system, we interviewed 32 key leaders that represented the broad sectors of our community: business, faith, non-profit, county government, city government, fire, education, health services, and allied law enforcement.
We asked these key leaders about our department’s performance, as well as the key issues facing our community that affect crime and quality of life within Ukiah.
The key leaders reported a number of concerns, including the crime and drug culture associated with transients, the need for a police presence in our schools, bike and car traffic violations, the need for police presence in our parks and open spaces, the development of a volunteer program, a police presence at community events, and continued engagement in youth activities.
Along with asking key leaders about crime and the quality of life, we also compared Ukiah to other cities in our region, including Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Sonoma, Petaluma, and Arcata.
While none of these cities matched Ukiah exactly, each has similar demographics and is close to Ukiah’s geographic location. Although Petaluma is twice as large as Ukiah, including a city larger was important to have an idea where Ukiah ranks when comparing crime data.
When comparing Ukiah crime statistics to other cities, we normalized the data to make “apples–to–apples” comparisons. We reviewed the statistics for violent and property crimes, the annual crime index, and overall quality of life within each community.
From these comparisons, we found that, statistically, Ukiah has more violent and non-violent crime than the majority of comparable cities of its size, demographics, and geographic location. In fact, Ukiah ranked 384th of 465 California cities (including Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles). That means only 81 cities had a higher crime index rate, or said another way, 383 cities in California are safer than Ukiah.
Bottom line, far too many crimes are occurring right here within our community.
Between 2009 and 2011, UPD was able to significantly reduce violent crimes in Ukiah. In fact, we reduced overall felony crime in Ukiah by 22 percent and reduced violent assaults – including violent gang assaults – by 45 percent.
During this same period, because of the economic downturn, the City of Ukiah reduced its officer staffing from 32 sworn officers to 26 sworn officers
As you might imagine, this reduction in officers has led to slower response times to incidents, and an increase in crime rates. Between 2012 and 2014, our community’s felony crimes rates have slowly been climbing, rising 20 percent in the last two years.
Probably one of the most important lessons we learned as a department during our strategic plan review was how important the relationship between available officers and crime is for our community.
The more officers available to work on crime prevention strategies and respond to and deal with difficult criminal investigations, the lower our community crime rates tend to be.
As our economy has improved and funding has become available, the City Council has authorized the department to increase its staffing back to 32 officers, and we are working hard now to find and hire new officers.
If you’d like to know more about our strategic plan, Measuring What Matters Most, or our new Strategic Plan Review 2014, you can find both documents at www.ukiahpolice.com/about-us/statistical-information.
During the next few weeks, I plan to report on each of the five goal areas of our strategic plan, our new report card format, and our recommendations to make Ukiah as safe as possible.
If you’re interested in a career in law enforcement, the Ukiah Police Department is looking for officers who are willing to serve the Ukiah community – and for volunteers who’d like to be part of our team. If you’re interested in being a volunteer, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Nancy Sawyer, at 467-5708.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.