Mayoral candidate Jean Stothert challenged Mayor Jim Suttle's record on crime prevention Monday and reiterated a pitch to hire more police officers, pointing to what she said was a nearly 10 percent increase in crime in the past two years.
Stothert's campaign, citing Omaha Police Department crime statistics, said overall violent crime in Omaha rose 9.7 percent between 2010 and 2012, while property crime increased 10.6 percent.
The year 2010, however, marked the city's lowest number of overall crimes since 1973, when Omaha's population was 25 percent smaller.
“Over the last four years, the crime rate has increased, and our city is a less safe place to live, work and raise a family. Unfortunately, it seems the only person denying this reality is our current mayor,” Stothert said. “It's not a matter of denying it and saying 'I've been successful, we're plateaued out, we're doing fine, we're a safer city,' because we are not.”
Suttle's campaign issued a statement saying Stothert's statistics were “skewed.” The campaign said city crime statistics for the first part of 2013 would be released this week and would show that anti-crime initiatives led by the Mayor's Office have had an impact.
Those statistics will show a small drop in violent crimes and property crimes in the first quarter of 2013, compared with the first quarter of 2012.
A look at crime statistics kept by the FBI and Omaha Police Department shows that violent crimes in Omaha rose 5.2 percent from 2009 to 2012. Property crimes were up 4.8 percent over that period.
The number of gun assaults citywide increased each year from 2009 to 2011, but declined in 2012 to below the 2009 level, according to department statistics.
The number of homicides in the city increased from 2009 to 2011. The number dropped slightly in 2012.
There were 86 recorded gun assaults in the city's more volatile northeast precinct in 2012, compared with 102 in 2009. The city's southeast precinct saw 24 gun assaults in 2009, compared with 19 in 2012.
Stothert's press conference was a response to Suttle's recent claim that crime rates are largely flat and a demand that the city councilwoman prove otherwise.
“We stand by our statement that Omaha is a safe city, but we also point to real solutions this administration has put in place to make it safer,” Suttle's campaign said.
Stothert said crime rates rose even though the Police Department's budget increased during that period. The department remains understaffed, she said.
“With the size of our city and as we grow because we continue to annex, I feel like we do need more police officers on the street,” she said.
Contact the writer: