Crime down as Blackwell P.D. reveals 2021 statistics

by Charles Gerian

Blackwell Chief of Police Dewayne Wood gave his annual year-end report to the Blackwell City Council Thursday night, breaking down the highs and lows of 2021, Blackwell’s “post-pandemic” year.

“I’d like to thank City Manager Jerry Wieland, Mayor T.J. Greenfield and the rest of the City Council,” Wood said in his opening statement.

“I cannot express how grateful I am for your continued support of the police department. This past year, you have shown us what it looks like when city leaders cooperate with civility, collaborate and make good decisions based on what is best for our community. I am grateful for each one of you and your willingness to serve.”

Wood said he is proud of the police department’s staff, both sworn and unsworn, for their professionalism, dedication and compassion.

“You don’t only respond to police calls for service and enforce criminal and traffic laws, but you do your best to interact with our community members, he said to department staff. “You engage with our citizens, as well as children, in a positive way and provide the quality law enforcement service that is expected of us.”

“I would like to thank our amazing community and say what a privilege it is to serve the citizens, business owners and visitors of Blackwell,” Wood added.

The police department has 15 sworn officers, two animal control officers, five dispatchers, one part-time dispatcher and a part-time custodian.

Highlights for the year included the February 2021 ice storm, when police officers and firefighters assisted Wheatheart Nutrition officials by delivering meals to senior citizens.

The police department also: gave out cases of water during the boil water advisory; escorted Blackwell High School wrestlers to the state tournament; assisted with a rescue operation at the city water treatment plant; hosted a free-swimming event at the Memorial Pool; helped save two residents, as well as their cats and dogs, during a house fire; hosted the Jordan’s Way animal shelter fundraiser, raising $5,000; participated in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb; participated in the July 4 and Veterans Day parades; handed out candy during Halloween; and donated turkeys to families in need during the Thanksgiving.

CRIME STATISTICS In 2021, traffic accidents were down from 82 in both 2019 and 2020 to 73 in 2021. Instances of driving under the influence were also down, from 19 in 2019 and 17 in 2020 to fewer than 10 in 2021. Traffic stops fell dramatically as well, from 2,700 in 2020 to 1,700 in 2021.

Wood said that having police officers as a noticeable presence on the streets and being constantly visible seemed to make Blackwell’s streets safer.

In 2021, the department issued 470 traffic citations and 1,550 warnings. Both figures were down from the past two years. Public intoxication cases were also down, from 31 in 2019 and 18 in 2020 to 13 in 2021. Wood did note, however, that cases of vandalism and stolen vehicles were up from previous years.

Local officials charged 13 juveniles with more than 100 charges, including vandalism, larceny, and theft.

Emergency orders of detention were also up.

Wood said the police department worked with the Grand Lake Mental Health Clinic to facilitate various mental health cases.

“Grand Lake has been a real blessing for us,” Wood said. “Their help has been tremendous. It goes without saying that these past few years have been really strenuous on the mental wellbeing of not just our citizens, but people around the world – cooped up at home, losing jobs, not being able to go to school or go to work. We believe that really took a toll on a lot of people, and we were glad to cooperate with Grand Lake in order to get people the help they needed.”

Warrant arrests were up from 216 in 2020 to 249 in 2021. Drug and narcotics charges were also up from 66 in 2020 to 106 in 2021.

Total arrests, however, were down from almost 250 in 2020 to fewer than 200 in 2021.

“You saw a lot of ebbing and flowing from 2020 to 2021 because, simply, the lockdown had kept everyone inside and largely off the street,” Wood said. “Warrant arrests and drug charges are not indicative of rampant crime. One individual could have four or five warrants, as well as one person having several drug charges. Those compound in terms of intent to distribute, possession, paraphernalia and so on, whereas total arrests are presented on a case-by-case basis.”

Total calls for service were up from 8,400 in 2020 to 8,707 in 2021. Total 9-1-1 calls were down to 3,287 in 2021 from 3,300 in 2020.

“These are going to fluctuate no matter what, pandemic or not, no matter what anyone can do,” Wood said. “One year, you can be up 1,000, and the next, you can be down 1,000. There’s no metric for it. It’s just part of our operation. We are thankful for the dispatchers we have that take all of these calls and help to coordinate our police and fire responses.”

Moving onto animal control statistics, the number of dogs and cats impounded was down in 2021. Dog bite cases were down from 34 in 2020 to 17 in 2021. The number of animals adopted out to non-profit organizations was up to more than 300 in 2021, from 242 in 2019 and 260 in 2020.

Wood said the police department hasn’t been fully-staffed since August 2020, but he is interviewing several officers and dispatchers.

He said he is looking to have a fully staffed department by this spring.