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Police survey indicates most Willmar citizens believe neighborhoods are safe

WILLMAR -- Responses to a Willmar Police Department survey indicate most citizens and business owners believe their neighborhoods are safe.

The survey found 94.3 percent of respondents across the city agree with the statement, "I believe my neighborhood is safe,'' up from 90 percent in the last survey done by the Police Department in 1991.

Police Chief Jim Kulset was pleased with the response. He was hoping the percentage would be high.

"You get bombarded with negativisms, especially in our business. We tend to deal with crime victims and you always hear it's unsafe to go -- you fill in the blank,'' says Kulset.

"And it was remarkably the same all the way across (the city): southeast, northwest, southwest, northeast. It was good back then and it's good now. And if you can remember back in 1991 our crime rate was higher than it is now. We had some tough years in the early to mid-'90s.''

The Police Department sent 2,000 surveys at random the second week of October to business and residential addresses generated from the Willmar Municipal Utilities' database. The deadline was Nov. 3. The department received 737 responses and 580 were correctly completed.

Willmar's population appears to be more transient: 46.2 percent of respondents said they had lived at their current location for 11 or more years compared with 77 percent in 1991.

About 95 percent of the respondents were age 28 and over; 50.5 percent were female and 49.5 percent were male; and 94.7 percent were Caucasian, 3.1 percent were Latino, 1.7 percent were black or African American, and 0.5 percent were other.

The survey found nearly 38 percent of respondents said their most recent contact with the department was within one year: 28.4 percent said within the last six months. Nearly 20 percent said their most recent contact was over one year, and nearly 43 percent said they had had no contact.

If they did have contact with the department, it was with a uniformed police officer for 77.5 percent of respondents; 25.2 percent of respondents said the reason for their most recent contact was to report an incident, followed by traffic stop for 21.3 percent of respondents.

The reason for the most recent contact was as a suspect or arrestee for 0.6 percent of respondents.

Overall service was rated excellent by 63.7 percent of respondents, followed by 28.2 percent good, 4.8 percent fair and 3.3 percent poor.

Courtesy of officers was rated 69.7 percent excellent, 23.7 percent good, 3.9 percent fair and 2.7 percent poor.

Knowledge of officers was rated excellent by 55.3 percent, good by 34.2 percent, fair by 5.7 percent and poor by 2.1 percent.

The survey showed 44.7 percent of respondents said they had no problems in their neighborhoods, followed by 15.9 percent who said the most serious problem was traffic violations. The third highest -- 11.2 percent -- said the most serious problem was vandalism and graffiti.

Kulset gave the survey results to the Willmar City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee this week.

The committee meeting will be reported to the council at the 7 p.m. meeting Monday in the chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building, 700 Litchfield Ave. S.W.

Other agenda items for the council include comments from the public during the open forum, the Finance Committee report, a presentation from the Willmar Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Truth in Taxation hearing.

After adjournment, the council will meet in closed session to discuss the Jorgenson storm water damage litigation.