STEUBENVILLE - Violent crimes in the city, except for assaults and motor vehicle thefts, have decreased the first four months of the year, according to Police Chief Bill McCafferty.
"There were five assault cases reported early last year but we have eight so far in 2014. And motor vehicle thefts so far this year are up from two cases last year to eight during the first four months of this year," noted McCafferty.
McCafferty told City Council's safety committee Tuesday night there were three criminal homicides from January through April 28 in 2013, "but as of Monday we have not had a criminal homicide in the city this year."
Thirteen robberies were recorded during the first four months of 2013 but as of this year only three robberies were reported.
"Forced entry burglaries are down considerably this year with 35 last year through April and only 17 forced entry burglaries to date this year. Larceny theft cases are almost exactly the same, with 233 cases during the first four months in 2013 and 232 cases during the first four months this year," explained McCafferty.
He also said there were 11 confirmed shots fired in 2013 during the first four months compared to eight confirmed shots fired cases this year.
"We had 4,212 calls for service in January, February, March and April in 2013 and 4,133 calls for service so far this year. Our officers have been told to check on problem areas we are told about. I was made aware of the issues raised during last week's City Council meeting regarding Piece of Pie Park on LaBelle and Veterans Park on Pleasant Heights. If officers show up and there are people in the parks our officers will walk through the area," stated McCafferty.
Second Ward Councilman Mike Johnson said the police department must start treating people with respect, "and be responsive to concerns."
City Manager Tim Boland said McCafferty is stressing the need for communications with the police officers.
"If someone who has a complaint wants to talk to an officer, the officer will stop at the house. And the chief and I will be meeting with the leaders from the Hilltop Community Development Group on a monthly basis to discuss issues. We will be out in the community. There is a perspective out in the community that we need to change. We are working on getting beyond that perspective," said Boland.
McCafferty also said he currently has two police department vacancies and anticipates a third vacancy in June.
"The physical agility test for the patrolman position will be given on May 17. Depending on who passes the Civil Service Commission tests, and if they have attended the police academy, we may not be able to fill the open positions until December. If the successful candidates have already attended the police academy it will be sooner," said McCafferty.
During the safety committee meeting, 5th Ward Councilman Willie Paul called upon Boland to issue a cell phone usage policy for city employees.
"I see a lot of city employees on their cell phones while they are driving. Cell phones were never that important in the 1970s and 1980s. Cell phones are overrated. Using a cell phone while driving is an accident waiting to happen. We need to do something about city employees using cell phones before we have a lawsuit," said Paul.
"That policy needs to start in this council chamber. If we have something that important, the police dispatcher can come and get us. Before we tell city employees to stop using their cell phones while working, we have to clean up our own act. We should start this policy here and now in our meetings. I'm sorry if it offends people," remarked Councilman at large Kenny Davis.
"I will take what we have in place now and look at policies from cities where I have worked before to prepare a policy," said Boland.