Mayor Allender and Chief Hedrick address crime in Rapid City
By Joseph Budd
Native Sun News Today Staff Writer
RAPID CITY – Mayor Steve Allender and the Police Chief John Hedrick, took to the media to share a variety of information, regarding crime, causes, and how the city hopes to address a growing problem within the city.
Looking at the heart of the issue, several key factors were seen, regarding substance abuse, resources for treatment, poverty, and social isolation highlighted the major issues, but the mayor also addressed a myth, or “misinformation” that the rise in crime, was tied to dark money, or liberal money. Allender to that end felt people were taking news, and twisting it to serve their own theories. In reality, his statistics showed, that while major cities, had crime levels rise, Rapid City after a peak in 2020, actually saw the variety of crimes drop in 2021.
He said that with the given growing trend in the last two years, issues regarding social isolation, political issues and ideologies, Allender did note it was a harder time for everyone. “This isn’t science, but in all of my recollection, there’s never been a time since the past two years, where families are divided over politics and friendships are broken and marriages have been put in jeopardy because of political beliefs.”
He added that the pandemic has amplified all of that and created a great conflict within the nation and communities. In addition to the divide, low staffing numbers contributed to issues on proactive activity.
Hedrick also mentioned that due to the incident with George Floyd, bringing police issues into the national spotlight, a lot more attention has been focused on law enforcement officers, and they have seen more protests than any time in recent memory.
To help counter issues, the Police Chief did mention they now have a substation located within the Rushmore mall, but also have just signed a lease this month for a substation on Knowllwood Drive this summer. This location and area, had seen a handful of homicides, and hopefully with the substation they can start things like a neighborhood watch and hold community meetings. They can also identify community leaders who can help in specific cases, Hedrick said they have been asked for support in the area, and that “I think the more good people that we can bring in to stand together against the violence in that neighborhood, the better, and that’s what we’re gonna continue to try and do.”
One issue that was noted was an increase of gang activity with the concerns being raised at city council meetings. Hedrick said that the people the department encounter upon arrest that claim gang activity it’s something they note and keep track of. “Since I’ve worked here, we’ve had individuals that claim gang affiliation and we take that into consideration because if someone is staying they are and believes they are and they walk the walk, we have to treat that seriously,” he said.
By the numbers, while homicides did increase in Rapid City, the number of aggravated assaults, robberies and sexual assaults decreased in the area. On Aggravated assaults, the city say 453 cases, down from 502 the previous year, while robberies dropped from 106 to 76.
The noted trends here, in Rapid City, countered trends showing in towns like Denver and Minneapolis showed an increase in Crimes, and Sioux Falls, showed an increase in rape cases, burglary, theft and stolen vehicles, all 4 dropped in Rapid City.
One bright item, of the 29 homicides in the last 3 years, the city has been able to clear all but 4 of those, and of those four, are still active and currently being worked. He also noted, that 26 of the 29 were tied to either alcohol, drugs or in some cases, both.
Allender would also note a new approach for treatment in cases, such as substance abuse and addiction, will see help via the Care Campus and Crisis Stabilization Unit that will open later this year. Treatment services have seen expansion in the last 10 years, and in the last 5, more options now exist that didn’t before. “It’s a tip of the iceberg because it’s still not looking globally, all of these resources’ many of these resources I should say – are designed to deal with a problem that is occurring right now and not geared toward preventing a problem in the future.”
He would also mention that the root of the issue is complicated, but many of the cases related to substance abuse can be attributed to childhood trauma and childhood experiences. He said a few years ago, the city tried to initiate a childhood education problem. It has been slow going in South Dakota, Allender would say the current environment whether it’s policy makers or citizens, is not favorable for planning the future that way. He said the right environment can be created by accepting the data that exists on issues like early childhood education and to look at the states who have adopted programs. He would also mention that he sees an underinvestment from the state in terms of treatment facilities, and communities ae “manufacturing criminals.” He said it has to do with parenting and the home environment.
Mentioning South Dakota has the highest percentage of working mothers, which leads to extra pressure on day care facilities and other child support services, he said a common denominator, for those who oppose early childhood education, is “so-called Conservative values.” “There seems to be a feeling that you cannot be conservative and support early childhood education because early childhood education is ‘socialist,’ or it’s ‘liberal’ or it’s something else.” He said. “I’ll tell you what it is. It’s expensive. It’s expensive and it takes police officers dealing with generation after generation with hordes of kids who grew up raising themselves and are now part of the system. This is unsustainable and we’ve got to stop it.”
Allender would mention, if people feel like they don’t have time for their children, there are resources and systems available. There’s treatment for those who struggle with addiction and different environments for the children and people can support law enforcement. And lastly, he said people need to stop politicizing crime and reject politicized conspiracies about crime.