By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
In 2006, the City of Liberal was beginning to steer out of control in regards to crime within the city limits. When Liberal Police Chief Al Sill took over the reins of the department, putting a dent in crime was his first objective.
Sill’s efforts have paid off. He and his staff have managed to drastically reduce crime within Liberal over the past several years and the city commission was pleased to hear the news Tuesday evening.
“This is a number of statistics that we have compiled from the criminal activity within the city limits of Liberal,” Sill said as he addressed the commission. “If you recall, in 2006, there was quite a frenzy with regard to how high our criminal activity had risen. So, what I have done here, is we have compiled a number of statistics in comparing the past four years in the end of 2009 to 2006 so we can kind of get a snapshot view as to what is actually occurring within the city limits.”
Sill gave a brief overview to the commission as to how exactly such statistics are compiled and recorded.
“Back in the late 1920s, the International Association of Chiefs of Police realized the importance to start collecting crime data throughout the nation,” he said. “What they did was they created what was known as a UCR, which is a Uniform Crime Report, and from that they collected or chose which crimes they would actually compare and collect data on. Those are now commonly known as Part I crimes but they are also known as Index Crimes, and the reason they are known as Index Crimes is because they are the criminal activity that is most reportable to police agencies and provides a reflection on the criminal activity within your community.
“Those particular crimes are broken down into violent crimes, violent person crimes and property crimes,” he explained. “Later on in the 1930s, the FBI then became in charge of the clearing house for all national statistics, and they then began to incorporate what they call Part II crimes. Part II crimes are a number of other crimes that plague most communities throughout the nation. The Part I crimes being of most importance and more concern to the community members. But, the Part II crimes are also something of great concern.”
Statistics, Sill said, are compiled within the department and sent off to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which then reports statistics to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“If you recall back in 2006, you remember how high our crime rate rose,” Sill said. “Those were statistics that were generated through the KBI from each agency submitting their data to them. That data then is compiled into the rate per 1,000 of your population. That number is actually an index number it isn’t a total number of crimes that occurred but is a rate comparison.”
Sill continued to explain how the crime rate has dropped significantly since 2006, dropping yearly from a rate of 78.4 in 2006 to 35 in 2008.
“You will see in Liberal in 2006, our Part I index crimes had risen almost to 80 – it was actually sitting at 78.4,” he said. “That is what gave everybody huge concern because if you compare that to surrounding communities, we at that time were significantly higher. At that time, we were second in the state only behind Wyandotte County. Now, obviously that is not acceptable for anyone in Liberal.
“Following those statistics, note that in 2007 we were still significantly higher than Garden and Dodge and throughout the state, but we had dropped quite a number of incidents,” he added. “Still not acceptable.
“Look at 2008,” Sill continued. “From there, we continue to have a significant decrease. We went in 2006 from 78.4 all the way down to 35. So, if you compare that to Garden and Dodge, we are significantly lower than surrounding communities. So, to answer the question then how are we compared around the state, you will see we are still lower statewide.
“But, I was more curious as how we would do if we compared ourselves to mid-sized communities throughout the state instead of just everything,” he explained. “We compared ourselves to Garden, Dodge, Hays, Great Bend, Salina, Pittsburg, Newton, Hutchinson and Emporia. These are just towns we compare ourselves to. In 2008, we were lower than all of them with the exception of Hays. Not bad, that is a pretty good achievement in just a few years.”
The statistics for 2009, Sill said, will not be available until later in 2010. However, statistics provided by the LPD show yet a further reduction in crime.
“To give you an idea of what it should look like, looking at our in-house statistics and comparing them throughout the years, our statistics for 2009 should be very, very comparable to those of 2008,” he said. “Comparing our Part I crimes from 2006 to 2009, we had a significant decrease of 32 percent – that was for our violent crimes. For our property crimes, we decreased by almost 44 percent. And then your Part II crimes, they decrease almost 18 percent from 2006 to 2009. Still showing a slight decrease of about 8 percent from 2008.”
Sill was proud to announce the accomplishments of his department to the commission.
“So, overall that is a pretty big achievement and the reason I wanted to present that to you is because it really has a huge impact to everybody within the community,” he said. “Overall, it is my feeling, at least with the input I have gotten back from people, they certainly feel safer today then they did a few years ago.”
Sill added the rate of traffic accidents has dramatically decreased since 2006. The improvement, he said, is contributed to the issuance of more traffic tickets.
“If you will notice I have also shown a number of accidents of what we had in years past and what we have today,” he said. “You will see overall from 2006 to 2009, we have decreased 50 percent of our accidents in town.
“Why is that?” Sill asked the commission. “My easiest answer to that is we write a lot of traffic tickets – we write a lot of traffic tickets. It is all a part of the plan to make Liberal safer and more enjoyable to live. In 2006, we wrote 2,114 including traffic and parking, in 2009 we are 3,806, so that is a lot more than we have written in the past. That may generate a lot of complaints, but I am willing to accept those complaints over the problem that we have had in years past.”
Commissioner Larry Koochel praised Sill and the department for their efforts as he said he has heard no complaints regarding the number of tickets written.
“The complaints maybe you are getting, they are related to the people getting the tickets,” Koochel said. “I hear everything positive. When I talk to people that have gotten a ticket, the public appreciates what you are doing – they know that you are out there doing your job. I don’t hear anything negative about your tickets.”
“That’s good,” Sill said with a grin. “Can I have a helicopter?”