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New police action plan based on community input survey

The Hastings Police Department is still taking community input surveys, but not for long. After Oct. 8, the surveys will no longer be available.

"The objective from the beginning is really reflected in the title," said police chief Paul Schnell.

"Hastings Police Department Community Input Survey" does, in fact, say it all. Police are asking the community to share its thoughts on crime and public safety in Hastings. The survey takes 10 to 15 minutes to fill out and includes such questions as "How safe do you feel in your neighborhood," "Do you feel the officers working in your area/neighborhood are familiar with issues important to residents" and "How much do the following factors influence crime in our community?" There are also a number of free response questions where one can address specific concerns not covered in the other questions.

"One of the benefits of doing this type of endeavor is that we get a lot of perception data from people who take it," Schnell said.

Understanding perception is important because in some cases, the perception of a crime doesn't match up with reality.

"When that happens we ultimately create fear that isn't always warranted," Schnell said.

Another benefit to the survey is that it engages the public and makes them an active part of Hastings' law enforcement plan.

Police have already begun to look at the data they do have. As of the middle of last week (around Sept. 22), they had 305 responses. So far, results suggest that people in Hastings think drug use, unsupervised youth house parties, drinking groups and traffic are the most serious problems in the city. A slight majority believes police could do more proactive patrolling, and the bulk of those who responded feel safe or very safe in their neighborhoods.

"We feel good about the fact that people feel a sense of safety," Schnell said.

Already, discussions have begun about how to turn the data into police action.

"When we look at the kinds of priorities the community is saying we should focus on in the coming year, we will take those priorities and develop a series of strategies," Schnell said.

"We've already started to have some of those discussions," he added later.

Ideally, by the end of next year, police can put the survey into better context by setting comments next to the actions taken and the outcomes of those actions.

"Hopefully we begin garnering data that begins to tell us that we're making a difference," Schnell said.

The survey is available online at the city's website, the "What's new" section. Those who do not have access to the internet can call the Hastings Police Department at 651-480-2300 to have a paper survey mailed to them.

"We really would encourage people to have their voice heard," Schnell said.