*Update: Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, which is backing Collins for mayor, responded in the comments. Take the time to read that, too.
Crime, as you'd expect, has been a hot topic in the Toledo mayoral race.
Mayor Mike Bell and challenger D. Michael Collins seem to go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth on a lot of the same topics: gangs, the gang map (forever and ever and ever), Chief Derrick Diggs, and crime statistics.
Collins has said numerous times – in interviews, during debates, and probably in other places at other times – that the Toledo Police Department's crime statistics, specifically when it comes to burglaries, are not accurate.
The reports, Collins claims, are being classified as lesser offenses to make it look like there are fewer burglaries in the city than there really are.
Bell doesn't really ever respond to the accusations.
I've asked God knows how many different police officers, command officers, detectives, whoever in the department, if there's any truth to Collins' claims.
The responses are all over the board.
Some say yes, that some reports that should be classified as burglaries are being downgraded to criminal trespassing, vandalism, etc.
Some say no. What purpose would that serve for the department? One person who responded this way says it would be counter-productive to cook the books while top officials are constantly saying the department is understaffed.
Some people just don't know what to believe.
On Oct. 9, before I went on vacation, I filed a public records request with Sgt. Joe Heffernan, the department's spokesman:
… Can I please get copies of all burglary/breaking and entering/criminal trespass/criminal damaging/vandalism/petty theft reports from Sept. 29 through Oct. 5?
It's only a week of reports, but goodness, that's a lot of reports.
Last Thursday, Oct. 24, I found out the reports were ready, but I wasn't able to pick them up until Friday.
Friday afternoon, Lt. Mark King handed me a stack of 316 police reports.
It's a good thing I've been lifting weights.
I spent most of Monday reading each one of those 316 police reports – some of them only one page, some of them six pages. It was … riveting.
As I read, I put each report into one of three piles:
When the last report had been assigned a pile the results were:
Based on this assessment, it does not appear that Collins' claim of downgraded reports is substantiated. It at least does not appear to be rampant.
The reports that I thought were mislabled were, in summary:
Vandalism, reported Oct. 2 at 2016 Calumet Ave. The victim told police someone went into the property and knocked out walls and spray painted graffiti on other walls.
Criminal trespass, reported Oct. 2 at 137 Palmer St. Report states officers were sent to the location for a breaking and entering. When police arrived, suspects jumped out of a side window and fled on foot.
In each instance, someone was clearly inside a property they had no business being in.
The reports I thought were “questionable” were, in summary:
Petty theft, reported Oct. 1 at 1232 Sawyer Rd. Victim told police that 10 DVDs were missing from her collection.
Petty theft, reported Oct. 3 at 2678 Kendale Dr. Victim told police a bicycle was missing from a locked storage unit; lock does not appear to be tampered with.
Domestic violence/criminal damaging, Oct. 5 at 447 5th St. Victim told police her boyfriend broke out a window screen, kicked in her side door, and threatened to beat up the victim.
Criminal trespass/criminal damaging, reported Sept. 29 at 3706 Lainar Dr. Victim told police her brother, who does not have a key, got into her home.
Criminal trespass/criminal damaging, reported Oct. 3 at 3930 Upton Ave. Victim told police his ex-girlfriend came into the house through an unlocked door, demanded her boots, and then threw a power tool through a window.
Criminal trespass, reported Oct. 3 at 4119 Garden Park Dr. Police report states suspect, a relative, was in a back room when officers arrived. Police asked if he belonged there, suspect reportedly said “No I don't, my mother kicked me out.”
Disorderly conduct/criminal trespass/possessing criminal tools, reported Oct. 5 at 26 Main St. Police report states that suspects were trying to climb a fence to get into the enclosed area in order to steal a disco ball.
With all of the mayoral debates behind us and the election on Tuesday, I don't know if this issue will come up again, but at least this might help someone decide what they think of Collins' claims – if he's spot on or full of, as Mayor Bell would say, horse malarkey.
Don't think we're picking on Collins – we've fact-checked Bell too.
First on "the gang map creates mayhem and causes more shootings" and then on the $48 million deficit.