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COLUMBIA HEIGHTS, Minn. -- Columbia Heights police are touting a new initiative they say helped lead to a dramatic decrease in crime in one neighborhood.
The department ran its summer initiative this June through August and noticed serious crime in the Circle Terrace neighborhood on the city's southeast side declined from 16 incidents in 2007 to five this summer. Based on that success, the department will expand the program to other parts of the city.
"Citizens have also responded really positively," said Columbia Heights Crime Prevention Coordinator Raeann Grew. "We're getting a lot more calls about suspicious activity, where before they were not as proactive."
The program was rolled out in Circle Terrace to address a growing concern about violent crime in the neighborhood, Police Chief Scott Nadeau said.
"In a smaller community, that kind of activity is completely unacceptable," he said.
The drop in serious crime -- such as aggravated assaults and burglary -- was a welcome result. Less-serious crimes, such as stolen property and vandalism, also fell, from 27 reported cases in 2007 to 19 in the same period this past summer.
Police also made 275 arrests and seized a number of weapons and controlled substances, according to police statistics.
The drop in crime also is reflected on a citywide level, with 100 fewer reported serious crimes and 148 fewer less-serious crimes in 2008 compared with 2007.
The department attributes those successes to its new strategy to target specific neighborhoods.
Investigators analyze criminal activity and work with agencies such as state gang and drug task forces to develop a problem-oriented response. There are foot and bike patrols and talks with landlords about tenant screening, and citizens are engaged in the process.
The department plans to remain active in the Circle Terrace community by continuing to meet with residents and landlords to sustain gains it made during the summer.
After its success in Circle Terrace, the Columbia Heights Police Department is applying the same strategy to its Heritage Heights neighborhood, formerly known as Sheffield, which is located in the northeast area of the city. With 25 incidents during the summer, police regard the neighborhood as another problem area.
Neighbors already are seeing results.
"Sheffield used to be an area where I did not feel safe driving because of teenagers and young adults loitering," said Donna Schmitt, a citizen activist and Columbia Heights resident for 23 years. "Lately, I can actually drive past there, and I don't feel threatened at all. It's amazing what a few arrests will do."