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FBI Report Shows Violent Crime Down, Property Crime Fluctuating in Woodbury

A low crime rate "does not mean we're Disneyland," warns Woodbury police chief.

Violent crime in Woodbury has slowly decreased over the past five years, but property crimes have fluctuated dramatically, according to recent statistics from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report (UCR).

The reported 20 violent crimes—a rate of 0.38 crimes per 1,000 people—in 2006, according to the study. That number reached its five-year high in 2008 with 39 violent crimes (0.69) but dipped to 28 (0.48) in 2010.

Property crime, on the other hand, doesn't show as clear a trend.

Property crime in Woodbury saw a five-year low in 2006 with 1,142 incidents—a rate of 65.1 crimes per 1,000 housing units—but has been somewhat unstable since then.

In 2007, Woodbury's property-crime rate ballooned to 80.1, but seesawed from 72.5 to 79.6 to 74.5 in subsequent years.

Police Chief Lee Vague remains unsatisfied with the numbers despite the relative safety inside Woodbury city limits.  

"Overall I am pleased with the fact that the overall crime rate and calls for service is on a downward trend and has been for a couple of years," Vague told Patch. "But we're never happy; we're never satisfied. We always want to move the number down."

Vauge attributes community safety to a combination of factors that appear to be Woodbury-specific. 

"You've got to look at the socioeconomic piece; you've got to look at the planning piece and see how these developments are put together," he said. "(Woodbury) has a bunch of small communities within the larger community. Most of them are very active—a lot of them have neighborhood crime-watch groups—and, quite frankly, they have an expectation that they live in a safe place."

While some of that may be true, Vague warned Woodbury residents against becoming complacent.

"The flip side of that low crime rate is that it leads some people to believe that there is no crime and that they don't have to protect themselves from crime," Vague explained. "Yes we have a low crime rate but we're not Disneyland. We still have to deal with the same kinds of issues that other communities have."

Preparation Begets Prevention

One of the biggest challenges to keeping crime manageable in Woodbury used to be getting quality information to officers on the street, Vague said.

But by adding crime analysis to the daily duties of some officers and establishing a Street Crimes Unit, Woodbury officers are now getting good, timely intel.

"The sole job of the (Street Crimes Unit) is to come to work and go after the hot problem of the day," Vague said.

He added: "That unit works closely with our crime analyst to see what the trends are and they go after it. Their focus is to provide a short-term fix. They are the bridge between our detectives and the patrol officers."

A Four-City Overview

Compared to Woodbury, Oakdale, Mendota Heights and Stillwater all recorded higher rates of violent crime in 2010. Oakdale was the highest of the cities at 1.6 per 1,000 people, while Stillwater and Mendota Heights recorded 0.94 and 0.66, respectively.

Property crime rates throughout the region showed a similar trend, but Mendota Heights' rate of 52.1 far outranked Woodbury's (74.5), Stillwater's (101.8) and Oakdale's (107.9).

Apart from the odd statistical year, none of the communities recorded crime rates that were trending upward. In fact, all were either stabilizing or trending downward when compared to numbers from five years ago.

The County Response

One reason for stabilzing crime rates, said Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton, is the law enforcement partnership that has been created between the county and local police.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office (WCSO) has overall jurisdiction throughout the county but helps police communities in myriad ways, Hutton said.

For example, WCSO provides 24-hour coverage to the city of Hugo but serves on a contract basis for Mahtomedi, Dellwood and Willernie. Smaller communities like Landfall and Birchwood Village are policed by the departments in Maplewood and White Bear Lake, respectively.

"I really think the way we're partnering with everyone has caused the decrease," Hutton said. "We routinely work with the county attorney's office as well as the departments of corrections and youth services. We also partner with Tubman in domestic violence situations and agencies that specialize in interventions. We're all working together to provide services to the community."

For the 60,000-70,000 Washington County residents for which WCSO has primary law enforcement responsibility, the numbers look promising.

"From the end of 2007 the number of (violent) crimes for the area that the Sheriff's Office is primarily responsible for has gone down significantly. (Property) crimes have gone down also, just not as rapidly," Hutton said.

CRIMES IN WOODBURY, OAKDALE, STILLWATER & MENDOTA HEIGHTS

City
Year     Population  Violent crimes

Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents)

Property crimes Housing units (per 2000 Census) Property crime rate (per 1,000 housing units)

Woodbury

2006

52,830

20

0.38

1,142 17,541 65.1
2007

55,376

29 0.52 1,417

 

80.1

2008 56,619 39 0.69 1,272
72.5

2009 57,259 29 0.51 1,397

79.6


2010 58,503 28 0.48 1,307

 

74.5


Oakdale

2006

27,572

53 1.9 1,148 10,394

110.4

 

2007 27,306 65 2.4 1,255 120.7

 

2008 27,108 48 1.8 1,085 104.4

 

2009 27,068 34 1.3 1,253

120.6

 

2010 27,358 43 1.6 1,121 107.9

 

Stillwater 2006 17,494 9 0.51 455 5,926 77.1
2007 18,116 18 0.99 414 69.9

2008

18,053

10 0.55 442 74.6
2009 18,168 12 0.66 447 75.4
2010 18,208 12 0.66 603 101.8

Mendota Heights 2006 11,127 5 0.45 135 4,252

31.7

2007 11,318 9 0.80 315 74.1
2008 11,616 8 0.69 301 70.1
2009 11,610 7 0.60 262 61.6
2010 11,697 11 0.94 221 52.1
Sources: FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, prepared by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data

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