Craig Police Department releases results of community survey | CraigDailyPress.com

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Craig Police Department releases results of community survey

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta highlighted the courage and bravery of his officers Tuesday night during his annual report to the Craig City Council. His presentation also focused on significant cases

Service ratings

Quality of service ratings of the Craig Police Department by percentage of survey respondents

Year — Excellent — Good — Fair — Poor — Don’t know

2011 — 18% — 49% — 14% — 1% — 18%

2006 — 23% — 53% — 10% — 2% — 12%

2001 — 20% — 63% — 4% — 3% — 10%

Walt Vanatta said public perception of the Craig Police Department is less favorable than in years past, but only marginally.

On Tuesday, during the regular meeting of Craig City Council, Vanatta shared an overview of the 2011 Craig Police Department Community Survey. The multiple-choice survey – which asked Craig residents to rate police performance, satisfaction with the community and more – was randomly distributed earlier this year to 604 residents; 152 surveys were returned.

Similar surveys have been distributed in Craig twice before – in 2006 and 2001.

Vanata said the majority of respondents this year were older than 45, female, and had lived in Craig more than 10 years.

When asked to rate the level of service the Craig Police Department provides, 79 respondents said the level was "about right," which constitutes a slight drop from the 2006 survey. The level of service was judged to be "about right" by 99 respondents in 2006, and 95 in 2001.

Regarding quality of service, roughly 70 respondents rated the police department "good." This is a decrease from roughly 80 respondents in 2006, and more than 90 in 2001.

Regarding the same question, roughly 25 respondents rated the department's service "excellent," which was down from about 33 in 2006 and 28 in 2001.

In percentages, 49 percent said the quality of service was "good," and 18 percent said quality was "excellent," according to 2011 survey data. In 2006, 53 percent rated quality of service "good," and 23 percent rated quality of service "excellent." In 2001, the survey showed 63 percent and 20 percent, respectively for the ame questions.

"My concern was that our numbers – from 'excellent' and 'good' – have gone down slightly over time. 'Fair' has gone up," Vanatta said. "While the numbers aren't very big, there appears to be a general perception that our quality of service is kind of diminishing."

Vanatta said the new survey results run contrary to the department's mission.

"I don't think that's what we're about," he said. "Our goal is to provide excellent service, so that's one area we need to work on."

However, Vanatta said the department's workload has increased significantly since the first survey was completed 10 years ago.

"From 2001 to 2010, our calls for service increased 50 percent…as did the number of calls officers are handling. Accidents went up 74 percent."

The number of police officers at the department has remained the same during that time period.

"So, our officers are handling a lot more calls," he said.

Vanatta said he wasn't sure if a direct correlation exists between increased workload and a drop in perceived quality.

After the meeting, city council member Jennifer Riley said the police department is adequately staffed.

"(Vanatta) has been able to meet the public safety needs with the current staffing levels," she said. "Certainly, if Walt felt that public safety was in jeopardy because we were understaffed, I know he would be coming to us with those requests and data to back that up.

"I don't feel like we have a public safety issue because we're short on manpower."

According to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data, the sharp increase in the police department's workload is out of step with meager population growth over the past decade.

Since Census data was last collected in 2000, the population of Craig has grown by 275, or 2.99 percent.

Riley said the 50 percent increase in service calls to the police department is a sign of the times.

"It's not just Craig, it's happening everywhere," she said. "Crime always tends to be on the rise during a down economy."

Riley said thefts and drug use are growing nationwide.

"Even though our population hasn't grown, we have not been immune to the rise in these types of crimes throughout the country."

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