Survey: Norwich residents pleased with police performance

Norwich — Residents who responded to a professional survey of city police performance and neighborhood safety expressed strong trust and confidence in the police force and safety at home. 

Drug use and abuse remain top concerns, the survey by the National Police Foundation revealed.

Police Chief Patrick Daley and Lt. Tim Rykowski recently reviewed results of the online survey, conducted from Jan. 15 to April 15, with the Public Safety Committee. Norwich was one of only four police departments in the state to participate in the free survey written and conducted by the national nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation.

The 37-question survey included questions with multiple categories, such as: “How well are the police in your neighborhood doing at ...” Answering that question on “fighting crime,” 85.5 percent of respondents said good or very good, and 80 percent said the same for police dealing with problems of concern in respondents’ specific neighborhoods.

Asked if police use excessive force, 67 percent of respondents answered it is “very or somewhat uncommon,” and 73 percent said it was uncommon for police to use offensive language.

Asked what types of crime they are worried about, 61 percent are “not at all worried” about being out in their neighborhood at night. But 74.6 percent said they are very or somewhat worried about people selling or using drugs.

Rykowski said police were very pleased to see the positive response to the question: “I would feel comfortable calling the police department if I needed help.” A total of 131 of the 144 respondents, or 91 percent, said they strongly or very strongly agree.

“I felt that was excellent,” Rykowski told the Public Safety Committee. “Again, 100 percent is the goal, but I think that that directly represents our public trust. Ninety-one percent feel comfortable contacting us for help.”

While city police leaders were pleased with the results, Rykowski said they also were disappointed in the limited response from key sections of the city and from minority groups in general. Of the 146 people who responded to most questions, 87.4 percent were white, only 2.1 percent were African American, 4.2 percent were Hispanic, 3.5 percent were Native American and 0.7 percent were Asian.

Rykowski called participation in the survey from Taftville and Occum “abysmally low,” at just 8.7 percent of the total respondents residing in the Taftville historic mill village and just 4.3 percent from the more rural northern Occum village. The heaviest response came from the West Side, 25.5 percent, and Norwichtown, 26.3 percent, while 16 percent of respondents were from downtown.

Although the foundation told Norwich police that 146 responses in the city of nearly 40,000 was “average,” Rykowski said the department will do a second round of the survey starting in October and will launch a publicity campaign to try to boost participation. He will ask community policing officers to discuss the upcoming survey at neighborhood watch meetings and will contact the Norwich branch of the NAACP and other ethnic minority organizations to promote the survey.

The survey also will be announced on the city website, the police department’s Facebook page and other social media outlets and the Norwich Public Utilities quarterly newsletter.

The survey will be done online only, with a link provided for the survey website once the second round is open.

c.bessette@theday.com

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