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Public Opinion Survey Gives Reno Police Positive Ratings



The results of the Reno Police Department’s 29th annual RPD Attitude and Public Opinion Survey continued to show high satisfaction, with most residents giving high marks for the department’s performance and continuing to feel Reno is a safe place to live.

Nearly 400 households throughout the Reno area were selected randomly to participate in the survey, and residents also had the opportunity to participate in the poll on-line. The survey is a planning tool for the Reno Police Department and provides continual measurement of public attitudes and opinions about local law enforcement related matters.

According to the survey, nearly 90.2 percent of residents surveyed feel Reno is a safe place in which to live, reflecting a slight increase from the previous survey and an increasing trend line over the past few years. The number of residents who felt safe in their neighborhood remained high with just over 98 percent of residents feeling safe in their neighborhood during the day (unchanged since last year) and 85 percent during evening hours (a slight improvement from last year). Residents were also asked if they felt safe downtown during both the daytime and evening hours resulting in 85 percent feeling safe during the day and 47 percent at night. Downtown nighttime safety increased significantly (38 percent) from the previous survey.

Survey responses indicated the three key reasons for feeling safe is a perceived reduction in the crime rate, reduction of gang crime and police patrolling. The overwhelming response to feeling less safe was because of the city’s financial condition and its impact on the police department. About one-third of the responses were directly attributed to this. Other factors that negatively influenced this question were an increasing population, gang crime and a perceived increase in the crime rate.

Slightly less than 10 percent of the respondents to the survey were a victim of a crime within the past year. The historic average for this question is 14 percent, so these results are significantly different than previous surveys. This is also consistent with Uniform Crime Statistics showing a decline in crime in Reno. The actual Uniform Crime rate in Reno for 2010 declined 15.8 percent.

In 2009, the Reno City Council approved for the Reno Police Department to expand the Community Action Officer (CAO) Program, a specialized police unit that works with neighborhoods to proactively problem solve long term neighborhood issues. In addition the Crime Suppression Team (CST) was expanded to increase the number of officers who are proactively researching crime trends and making arrests daily on the most active criminals. “The crime data along with the results of this survey are definitely in part due to the combined efforts of the CAO and CST initiatives. We are committed to developing highly effective units, which can adapt quickly in these challenging times,” advised Chief Steve Pitts.

Issues that were at the forefront this survey included gangs, drugs, response time, and the city’s budget. The economy influenced this survey as citizens are expecting an increase in crime caused by the current financial environment. Three times more citizens feel the crime rate is increasing rather than decreasing. These views are created by hearing about individual crimes in the media, not the totality of the situation.

“We are currently working on several initiatives to provide improved customer service to our community,” advised Chief Pitts. “One example is improving our online reporting system that will walk residents through the process for easier use, provide a realistic expectation on the solvability of particular cases, and allow for the resident to provide additional updates and information.”

Overall, the majority of citizens are pleased with the Reno Police Department. The five year trend is currently trending positive on performance and safety. Two significant improvements were noted in downtown nighttime safety and fewer victims of crime. The only significant decline was in victim satisfaction. “The most important priority for the Reno Police Department continues to be providing the very best service to our community, advised Chief Pitts. “We must be progressive in our policing during these difficult times while we protect and serve but also create public value.”

The Reno Police Department began the surveys in 1987 as part of its shift away from an emphasis on traditional service delivery strategies that are viewed as primarily reactive and focused on symptoms rather than causes. The survey methodology and questions were developed with the assistance of experts at the University of Nevada, Reno to ensure its validity and reliability. The community-oriented policing philosophy emphasizes problem solving partnerships between the police and community to improve the quality of life. The Reno survey has been recognized as a national model program by the Police Executive Research forum and John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. It has also been recognized and featured in several publications.

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