Third annual police survey conducted; drugs are top concern
Hastings residents have spoken, and the Hastings Police Department is listening.
The 2012 HPD community input survey was conducted recently, and now the department is going over the responses to determine how it can address the issues brought up in the survey.
Approximately 120 people took the survey.
When asked for their opinion on the seriousness of certain crimes in Hastings, 50 percent of the respondents said the biggest issue in Hastings is unlawful drug use. The other most serious crimes were drinking groups (defined in the survey as gatherings that take place in wooded areas and parks), unsupervised house parties, drunk driving and domestic abuse.
One of the biggest issues brought up in the survey relates to the public's comfort in using 911 to report simple issues, like a lost dog or a parking complaint. In the survey, 50 percent of the respondents reported being either somewhat uncomfortable or very uncomfortable using 911 for non-emergency calls.
Since the department has encouraged residents to call if they see something out of place, Chief of Police Paul Schnell sees this 911 barrier as a big problem.
"Are we making it more difficult for people to make that call?" he asked. "It's concerning."
The trickiest part of all this is that other communities in the county have different policies.
"If you work in another community, you may be encouraged to use a non-emergency number there," Schnell said. "We are asking people to be mindful of where they are.
"That has us asking if this is the best policy. Or, do we need to do a better job of educating the public?"
The 911 calls placed in Hastings are routed to the Dakota Communications Center, located immediately south of Rosemount. By having callers use 911 for every call in Hastings, dispatchers at the center get data automatically populated for each call, and there are other benefits to using the center, Schnell said.
"There are reasons why 911 is a useful tool," he said. "We just want to make sure we are not creating expectations that go contrary to what we're trying to get people to do."
This is the third year the department conducted the survey.
Here are more of the questions and responses:
One question asked if people were aware of the Text-A-Tip service provided by the department. Roughly half of the respondents hadn't heard of the service. If you have a tip for police, just text the word HASTINGS and your tip info to 847411.
One of the questions asked respondents for the opinion on quality of life issues. Some of the responses were:
"The amount of drugs in Hastings is absolutely unacceptable and really, really has to change."
"(There) seems to be a number of home-based auto repair businesses running out of garages. ... Medians overgrown with weeds paint a poor picture of Hastings for visitors and those passing through town."
"The speed on 15th Street is out of control between Westview Drive and Pleasant Drive."
"Pharmacies selling syringes without a prescription. We all know what they will be used for."
"Dogs not on leashes on trails - make this a priority."
"A ton of trash is always dumped on 160th Street East, like TVs, computers, couches and tires."
"Many drivers seem to forget that the stop signs along Fourth Street West apply to all traffic, and that slowing does not constitute stopping."
Respondents were asked for their opinion on what the overall level of crime was in their neighborhood.
About 76 percent said the level of crime was "not too serious" or "not at all serious."
A question asked respondents if their neighborhood had a Crime Watch Program or a block club. About 33 percent of people didn't know, and another 41 percent reported their neighborhood didn't have such programs.
Schnell said the department plans to address this.
When respondents were asked if they feel safe in their neighborhood, 70 percent reported feeling either "extremely safe" or "very safe." Another 27 percent said they feel "moderately safe."
Respondents were asked what changes they'd make to improve their neighborhood.
They responded with some of the following statements:
"Noise ordinance enforcement."
"More neighbors having well-lit properties. More squad cars making regular rounds on our street. Increased property maintenance and code enforcement. Fewer rental properties ... and cracking down on landlords who rent their homes and let the property deteriorate."
"More checking of residents when bonfires are involved with underage drinking."
"Legalize drugs. Eliminate handguns. Enforce all dog ordinances."
"Patrols to stop vandalism at Lions Park. Teens left to run wild in said park some nights."