Residents who participated in the Auburn Police Department’s second community survey consider illegal drugs and traffic issues the most significant public safety concerns.
APD Chief Shawn Butler said the department wants to use the feedback in the survey to guide the department to accreditation with New York state.
The survey asked residents to answer questions about their feelings regarding personal safety, the crime in the area and how well APD officers perform their duties. The survey was open during April, according to a public letter from the department, and the results were made public in early June.
“I think we fared pretty well,” Butler said. The goal of the survey was to see the community’s thoughts on “how we’re doing and where they think we need to strengthen our actions as police," he said.
Of the 716 people that began taking the survey, 56 percent were women and 52 percent were between 25 and 54 years old. Approximately 528 people completed the survey, according to the release, and the number of responses to individual questions varied.
The majority of all respondents identified as white, at roughly 93 percent. About 43 percent of respondents reported not having contact with the police department.
The APD, along with Syracuse University, conducted a previous community survey in 2017 to create a strategic plan for the department.
Butler noted then that the department struggled to get feedback from minorities, despite attempts to distribute the survey to those groups.
“Our aim was to get our minority community to participate, as well. We want to make sure that the survey got out to a diverse group in the city so everybody had a chance to voice their opinions. That’s always been a challenge for us,” Butler said.
He estimated that they had roughly the same amount of minority participation in the survey as they did in 2017.
Part of the survey asked residents to rank the significance of different public safety concerns.
Nearly 80 percent of those who responded to a question about illegal possession and use of drugs found it to be a "significant" concern.
Of those who responded to a question about traffic issues other than speeding, 66 percent found it "significant" to "somewhat significant." Roughly 69 percent ranked parking issues the same way in another question.
Respondents reported that, over the last 12 months, 39 percent felt that crime in Auburn increased and 53 percent felt that it stayed the same.
Butler said that even though the crime rate is staying the same, residents’ perceptions are still important.
“If they don’t feel safe in their own home, what are we doing or what aren’t we doing to change that perception?” he said.
Roughly 94 percent of respondents said they felt "safe" to "very safe" in their homes at night, while 77 percent reported feeling "safe" to "very safe" at night while out in their neighborhoods.
The results of one question showed 77 percent of respondents felt the APD was "good" to "excellent" at providing services to the community, while about 23 percent felt it did a "fair" to "poor" job.
The Citizen reported that in the 2017 survey, “roughly 60 percent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that APD performs an appropriate amount of foot patrols.”
Butler finds the department still lacks the staffing to interact with the community and police proactively, rather than re-actively, in between calls.
He said that could be connected to the “constant battle” of traffic and drug issues.
“Those things go hand with being able to proactively police. The correlation with being able to do that effectively and efficiently is our lack of manpower right now. We are basically to a point where our head is just above water in the calls for service,” Butler said.
He said the APD plans to create future goals from the survey during the process of accreditation.
“We definitely direct our services in different avenues and different pathways to make sure that the people we serve are satisfied with our performance.”