Waterloo Police Seek Public Help To Stop Violence
Waterloo's top police officer is urging the community to get involved in the effort to stop the recent incidents of violence in the city.
Director of Safety Services Dan Trelka made his plea to the public during a news conference on Monday (April 27, 2015).
Trelka said his officers are doing what they need to do to stop the string of stabbings and drive-by shootings that's causing uneasiness in the city.
"Since April 1st, we have been holding many individuals accountable for their violent acts," Trelka said. "We've actually arrested 31 individuals, facing a total of 99 felony charges. It's individuals who are shooting at houses, who are violating other people's rights in a violent manner.
"We have seized 11 firearms and they were firearms seized from individuals who should not have firearms. Either they're convicted felons, they're too young to carry firearms or they use that firearm -- that weapon -- in the act of a crime."
According to Trelka, Waterloo police generally know who's committing the acts of violence, but proving it is another matter.
"What we have right now is we have two separate factions," Trelka explained. "Most of the shootings we have -- many of the acts of violence -- two separate factions are engaging in retaliatory measures against each other for some of perceived transgression."
Trelka said Waterloo police officers are stepping up patrols in violence-prone areas of the city, but he added that more police presence can have drawbacks. Waterloo's top cop noted that some people in a neighborhood want a robust police presence, while others want less.
“There’s a fine balance between being viewed as a military force in a neighborhood and quelling the violent acts that are occurring," Trelka said. "We’re trying to maintain that balance. We don't want to be viewed as a military presence, but we're working hard to work with neighborhoods."
According to Trelka, police are working to identify the youth most at-risk of committing violent crimes in Waterloo and making an effort to intervene before violent acts happen. Trelka added he’s getting assistance from departments in other parts of the country to learn more about community policing efforts. He said there’s only so much police can do without assistance.
"We can't emphasize enough that witnesses need to come forward," Trelka stated. "If you see or hear suspicious activity in your neighborhood, give us a call. If you witness a violent act, we need you to step forward and provide us with information."
Trelka said a recent Facebook group, "Taking Back Waterloo," has been "phenomenal" for being solution-focused and getting community members to care again about their neighborhhood. But Trelka also addressed an on-going mistrust the community has in the Waterloo police force and a tendency for the public to blame officers for not stopping violence.
"This isn't solely a police problem," Trelka said. "A lot of times communities like to point the finger at police. First of all, they accuse us of being the root cause of the problem, then they expect us to wholly fix the problem.
"That's not true. That's not reality. These are community issues. These are society issues. Everybody needs to be involved."