“There were close to 900 municipalities we were competing against,” Mayor Rob Duncan said. “It was a pretty exciting email to receive. I knew nothing about it until I received this email.”
In late May, a LendEDU official notified the mayor that Norwalk was ranked as one of the safest cities in Ohio, based on “licensed data” and having each municipality’s crime index rated against the state and national averages. LendEDU, which started in August 2014, on its website describes itself as “a marketplace for student loans and student loan refinance.”
Police Chief Dave Light said the crime index likely is based on the uniform crime reports, which are automatically uploaded to the FBI.
“If it weren’t for our heroin problem and the fallout from that, we would really be doing good,” he added.
With city council recently authorizing the police department having a 24th officer, Light said that means there will be increased manpower and that will allow officers to be more proactive than reactive and have “detective bureau stings.” He said police can set up situations where they can stop people from stealing TVs from Walmart in the middle of the night.
Norwalk is ranked 96. The nearest cities or villages are Bellevue (69), Ashland (72) and Amherst (92). The full report and methodology can be found at https://lendedu.com/blog/safest-cities-state.
Duncan was asked why he thinks Norwalk is a safe city.
“First, we have some great citizens,” the mayor said. “We have a lot of citizens concerned about our community.
“I think the P.D. is outstanding. I know they go above and beyond,” he added, using the example of officers spending time chatting with young people and other residents. “They keep those relationships going.”
Noting the success of the D.A.R.E. and Safety Town programs, Duncan said part of Norwalk being a safe city starts with young children. The mayor added that residents staying alert is an asset to fighting crime.
“A lot of times our citizens are our eyes and ears,” the mayor continued.
When asked about the drug and opioid epidemic in Norwalk, Duncan said “honestly, it’s a problem every city in America is dealing with right now.
“Do we have a problem? Yes. Is it any worse than any place else? No,” he added.
Light also was asked what makes Norwalk a safe city. The police chief said one factor is the Maple City is located far enough from other cities where the loss of “good-paying jobs” often leads to an increase in crime.
“We don’t have as many bars as we used to,” added Light, who estimated there are half as many as there was 20 years ago. “(Most of) the bars we do have are upscale.”
Also, the chief said about a third of his department consists of young officers who are enthusiastic, have great camaraderie and excel with public relations.
“They are out there hustling,” Light added.