Davenport leaders explore community-based strategies to tackle violent crime

Davenport leaders explore community-based strategies to tackle violent crime
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 8:30 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - The key to tackling violent crime in Davenport doesn’t just rest in the hands of police, city officials said Thursday.

“I think some of the challenges from the perspective of the police department is that everybody expects the police to solve this violent crime,” Davenport Police Maj. Jeff Bladel said.

“You can sit there all day every day and make great cases and arrest people, but if we don’t have the support of the courts or if there’s potential familial or legacy crimes that continue, how are we going to be able to stop that cycle of crime.”

Incorporating more perspectives from community groups, Bladel said, “is just going to make that approach, process, strategy that much better.”

City leaders hope to increase crime prevention tactics in Davenport by exploring more community-based interventions and strategies.

“Coordinating our community, coordinating our police efforts, as well as our city efforts in focusing on violent crime and how all of us collectively can address violent crime,” Bladel said.

Data obtained this week by TV6 Investigates shows there have been 109 confirmed gunfire incidents between Jan. 1 and July 7.

That’s down from 135 reported for the same time period in 2020 and 145 in 2019.

According to the data, injuries were reported in 26 of the incidents this year, compared to 19 over the same time period in 2020 and 10 in 2019.

Property damage was reported in 34 incidents so far this year, according to the data.

May alone had 28 incidents, including a shooting homicide.

“They’re slightly down as we compared to last year,” Bladel said. “We did have an approximately 40% increase in our non-fatal shootings from last year to this year.

“What we’re seeing as far as the shots fired…so we do have beefs that are retaliatory that cause some of the shootings and even the homicides. However, we also see that, you know, sporadic events that just lead into violence. We also have this year that’s kind of different is that domestic violence is with firearms.”

View Davenport Confirmed Gunfire 2021 in a full screen map

Last month, Mayor Mike Matson announced the formation of a Violent Crime Community Task Force in response to rising levels of violent crime in the city.

The task force includes input from various community organizations, such as NAACP, LULAC, Davenport Community Schools, Genesis Health Systems, Vera French Mental Health Services, Saint Ambrose, and the Quad City Chamber of Commerce.

Meetings of the task force have not been open to the public.

Recently, Matson, Bladel, Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Ott, and representatives from Family Resources went to Washington D.C. and Baltimore to learn about community-based violence prevention strategies utizlied in those communities.

“We had an opportunity as a city to visit D.C. and Baltimore, and this kind of stems from the mayor’s implementation of a violent crime task force,” Bladel said. “Part of the opportunities that we had is that through some of the connections we have through our Public Safety Partnership, we have the ability to connect with different agencies and learn, so peer exchange and peer learning.”

One takeaway Davenport officials took from looking at the two crime prevention models is better collaboration between police, community outreach and prevention, and the court system.

The goal, officials said, is making sure all three are working together as best as possible.

“You have prevention, where you want to prevent people from coming into criminal activity, but if they choose that path, then you have enforcement, and you need to have appropriate and effective enforcement mechanisms,” Ott said.

“All three of those things need to work in tandem to be successful in combating violent crime. If prevention doesn’t necessarily know what enforcement is doing or if the court systems don’t know what enforcement is doing if they’re not all working together, will they see some successes? Yes, but will they be as successful as they could if they were coordinated? No.”

Bladel said there are already “fantastic” services within the community. What the D.C. and Baltimore models incorporate, he said, is more street outreach.

“To actually go where we know problems are and try to connect with our community and connect services,” he said.

One particular strategy is using violence interrupters, which are people employed by community organizations that can help deescalate tensions between groups.

“So if we have potential feuds that are kind of blowing up or potential retaliatory type incidents, the violence interrupters kind of insert themselves in there,” he said.

Another strategy is the use of “credible messengers,” which officials said focuses on at-risk youth.

Bladel said police continue to embrace technology in solving crime. One tool they use is the Camera Registration Program, where residents can register their home security cameras.

Ott added that the community itself also plays a big role in crime prevention.

Bladel and Ott said the next step is to determine what type of model fits locally.

“We have unique challenges, we have unique strengths and we need to be able to take what we’ve learned and scale it to something that is going to be effective in our community, for what we currently have here,” Ott said. “And that’s something we will be working on here in the near future with our partners.”

Determining the strategies and implementing them will take time, she said.

“In these communities, the program that we went to talk about in Baltimore, they’ve been working on starting for almost three years,” she said. “I mean, there’s a lot of leg work in the beginning to lay a proper foundation for the program to be successful once it launches because what we don’t want to do is do something hastily and then have it not work.”

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