The Lakeland Police Department’s responses to calls this year have been roughly evenly divided between the four quadrants of the city, according to police department data. Calls involving northwest Lakeland comprise 25.26% of the total, not 90%, as claimed by mayoral candidate Saga Stevin at a forum this week, according to the data.
At a candidate forum hosted by The Rotary Club of Lakeland on Tuesday, Stevin twice claimed that 90% of police resources are focused on northwest Lakeland.
But data provided by LPD at LkldNow’s request shows that among the roughly 78,000 police calls this year, call volume breaks down this way:
- Northeast (LPD patrol zones C and D): 30.99%
- Northwest (LPD patrol zones A and B) 25.26%
- Southwest (LPD patrol zones F and H) 22.43%
- Southeast (LPD patrol zones E, G and I): 21.31%
Police Department spokeswoman Robin Tillett said the 30.99% number for the Northeast district is artificially inflated by a high number of calls coming when crime and injury victims are taken to Lakeland Regional Health.
LPD’s figures are shown by patrol zones, which align closely, though not exactly, with the boundary lines of the four City Commission districts.
In the case of northwest Lakeland, patrol zone A — which covers most of the district south of I-4 — does not include a few neighborhoods just north of George Jenkins Boulevard/New Tampa Highway that are part of the City Commission district.
Here is LPD’s breakdown of calls by zone between Jan. 1 and Oct. 4 of this year among the nine patrol zones. (See the full document here or at the end of this article.):
Stevin has not yet responded to LkldNow’s noontime request for comment about the source of her information or the discrepancy with LPD’s statistics. Just before 5 p.m., a campaign aide said by text that Stevin is at a high school reunion and unavailable. This article will be updated if we get a further response.
Mayor Bill Mutz, whom she is challenging in the Nov. 2 city election, said that the city’s renewed community policing efforts and the work of the Gang Task Force have been effective in reducing crime. “This emphasizes the rewards attained when we intentionally invest in the lives of people,” he said.
City Commissioner Phillip Walker, who represents the northwest Lakeland district, said he has heard from many people who were upset when they read Stevin’s comments that northwest Lakeland neighborhoods “are not safe. There’s gangs there. There’s a lot of crime there. There’s homicides there. There’s shootings there. There’s a lot of things there. The police can’t take care of it if they’re not well funded.”
First, he said, he has always objected to the repeated use of the term “northwest Lakeland” as a euphemism for the inner city or the black community. The district extends west to the county line and as far north as Daughtery Road, and it is multi-ethnic, he said.
Second, he pointed to work by multiple organizations over the last decade to redevelop and improve the inner-city portions of the district.
One of the efforts was a gang task force made up of city agencies, faith-based organizations, businesses, neighborhood associations and the Polk school district, he said. The task force’s results included a huge reduction in gang activity, introduction of new youth programs, neighborhood outreach by the Dream Center and revival of LPD neighborhood police liaisons, according to Walker.
At Tuesday’s Rotary forum, the candidates for mayor and City Commission were asked several questions, including: “What are your thoughts for developing the northwest part of Lakeland?”
Mayor candidate responses:
- Stevin, citing the inflated crime numbers, called for an increase in police neighborhood liaison officers.
- Mutz called for more mentoring, training and creating minority business financing.
Among City Commission candidates:
- Incumbent Mike Musick of the southeast district said that improving roads will bring more industrial development, leading to jobs.
- His opponent, Shandale Terrell, said northwest Lakeland already has good businesses, but programs are needed to help residents improve their homes.
- Incumbent Sara Roberts McCarley of the southwest district praised housing redevelopment in the area and called for greater connectivity through road and pedestrian improvements.
- Her opponent, Allyson “Al” Lewis, who is a high school history teacher, was unable to attend because of work commitments.