Reports of serious crime in St. Paul dropped in 2014, marking one of the lowest levels of crime in recent years, according to data released by police Wednesday.
Murder, robbery, aggravated assault and other “Part 1” crimes dropped more than 6 percent last year, compared with 2013. Some of the biggest declines in crime categories were in homicide, residential burglary and rape.
For instance, St. Paul had 11 homicides in 2014, not including justifiable shootings by police; in 2013, there were 14. There were 181 rapes last year, compared with 218 in 2013.
Although serious crime was down overall, some categories of major crime saw an uptick. Auto thefts rose by 14 percent, and commercial burglaries by 10 percent.
St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith attributed the drops in serious crime to several factors, including the department’s use of social media to connect with residents, community policing efforts and youth-related work.
Police districts regularly update their Facebook pages with crime statistics and alerts, and departmental spokesmen maintain a Twitter account.
Last year, officers knocked on residents’ doors and engaged with neighbors at weekly community barbecues through the department’s Safe Summer Night project. Along with community nonprofits, police helped launch a curfew center on the East Side.
Police also worked closely with community ambassadors, who interacted with youths throughout the city. Serious crime involving juveniles decreased 63 percent in areas when ambassadors were out patrolling the streets, Smith said.
“You take all those things into account, that made a tremendous difference that I truly believe built trust. … I still think in this town, even when we have challenging times, because of the relationships, things work very well,” the chief said.
Smith said that he thought more public education would reduce auto theft, such as reminders to lock car doors and not leave cars running even when it’s cold outside.
Commercial burglary saw an increase last year mostly because of a couple of prolific burglars who allegedly struck numerous businesses. Both people were caught, Smith said.
Smith said more work will be done to continue the department’s community policing efforts. With the coming of light-rail transit and the opening of the new Saints ballpark, he said, police also will be assessing how having more people in downtown St. Paul could affect crime rates.
“I don’t know how that’s going to affect us,” he said.