‘Work smarter, not harder’: How Davenport plans to use a $700K federal grant to address gun crime – Quad City Times


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'Work smarter, not harder': How Davenport plans to use a $700K federal grant to address gun crime

When it comes to reducing a gun crime rate that reached an all-time high in 2020, Davenport city and police officials say the motto is "work smarter, not harder."

Aldermen will meet next week to award a two-year contract for crime analysis consultant services valued at $233,164 to IDEA Analytics of Phoenix, Ariz., as part of a $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice received last fall.

Under the contract, IDEA will provide the Police Department with technical assistance as it implements a new crime analysis unit. The city hired a crime analyst this year, with plans to hire a crime analytics administrator but was unable to find a suitable pool of candidates, city Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Ott said.

IDEA will assist with standardizing processes for collecting, processing, analyzing and reporting crime data. The goal of the partnership, Ott said, is to enhance Davenport Police Department's use of data to manage persistent crime trends and support investigative and patrol operations to positively impact crimes and implement a crime reduction strategy.

"Being able to more effectively and efficiently provide the law enforcement resources that we have when and where we need them ... by providing data in real time to command staff so that they can make those data-informed decisions," she said. "In essence, it's work smarter, not harder."

Davenport police officers responded to 279 reports of gunfire in 2020, an all-time high. Year to date, as of Oct. 20, police have responded to 174 confirmed incidents of gunfire and 32 non-fatal shootings in Davenport in 2021.

That is down from 237 confirmed shootings and 38 non-fatal shootings for the same period in 2020, from Jan. 1 to Oct. 20. 

Eight individuals have been killed by gunfire in Davenport in 2021, compared with seven fatal shootings in Davenport as of this time last year.

There were 195 confirmed incidents of gunfire each in 2018 and 2019 in Davenport, with three homicides reported in 2019 and seven in 2020.

There have been 11 homicides in Davenport in 2021, as of the end of August. In comparison, Des Moines — Iowa's most populous city with a population roughly twice as large as Davenport — has witnessed eight homicides this year.

"The goal is to be able to strategically look at what's happening in our city and whose involved in that, and getting that information to our police officers and devising strategies to work on those things," Davenport Police Chief Paul Sikorski said.

Public safety and gun crime has been a focal issue leading up to the Nov. 2 city election, with candidates running for Davenport City Council highlighting staffing shortages within the police department and calling for the hiring of more officers.

Sikorski said the department had six vacant positions it hoped to fill from retirements and resignations, and it continues to actively recruit, offering sign-on bonuses, relocation assistance and incentives for military veterans.

In addition, at any given time, the department is short 15 to 24 officers due to illness, long-term injuries and military deployment.

Law enforcement agencies across the country have experienced a wave of retirements and departures and are struggling to recruit new officers following civil unrest and protest across the country over the killing and deaths of Black and brown people at the hands of law enforcement that has sparked calls for reforming or defunding the police, which have taken their toll on officer morale, Sikorski has said.

The department has added and continues to add new officers this year, including three new officers most recently sworn last month and four new hires who started their 16 weeks of training at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy in August to become Davenport police officers. Upon completion of academy training, the officers will return to Davenport to begin the five-month Field Training Officer Program.

"It takes about 12 months (from the time of hire) until they're out on their own and handling calls for service," Sikorski said, stressing that hiring new officers will not have an immediate impact on alleviating staffing challenges.

"And I can't thank our officers enough for rising to meet those (staffing) challenges, and they're delivering," he said, noting the burdens placed on Davenport police over the past nearly two years. "It puts pressure on command, patrol and investigative staff."

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