Response officers make difference in Washburn neighborhood

Crime rates have dropped since last year

A communitywide effort to revitalize neighborhoods in the La Crosse area appears to be off to a good start.

For almost a year, residents in the Washburn neighborhood, which is just south of downtown and includesViterbo and Mayo Clinic Health System, have been seeing two familiar faces riding around in their squad car.

For neighborhood response officers Daniel Ulrich and Nathan Poke, the Washburn neighborhood is like home to them.

“My preferred method when I start shift is like to drive around the neighborhood, just to kind of get a warmup lap,” said Ulrich. “I like to get the temperature of what’s going on.”

And when a threat hits close to home, Ulrich and Poke are the first to respond.

“We are on our way to a domestic call,” said Poke on a recent day shift.

When the response officers arrive on scene, they know exactly with whom they are dealing.

“You guys were having problems last year, right?” Ulrich asked. “I think we came out here when stuff was on the street.”

The officer’s familiarity with the residents in the Washburn neighborhood is because of a new initiative in the community

“The community policing program is a model where you get to know what’s going on, get close to the neighborhoods, and they feel closer and come to you,” said Lt. Pat Hogan of the La Crosse Police Department.

Since the two response officers have been placed in the neighborhood, crime has dropped

“All of our serious offenses in that neighborhood go down,” said Hogan.

From Jan. 1 through the beginning of Oct., burglaries have dropped from 33 to 22 and assaults have gone down from 79 to 60.

On the flip side, drug arrests in the area have gone up from 126 last year to 145 this year. Plus, the calls for service have increased by 1,000 calls.

Although the officers are getting more calls, it doesn’t mean there is more crime in the area.

“You know we are not going to show any favoritism,” said Ulrich.

It just means that a familiar face may be there to make the situation a little bit better.

“That’s what community policing is about — familiar faces, so it’s not just random people coming up and getting a different officer every time,” said Ulrich.

Continued federal funding, along with the help of Mayo Clinic Health System, Viterbo University and the city of La  Crosse, will allow the two neighborhood response officers to remain in the Washburn area for three more years.

This is just one side of the cop duo in the Washburn neighborhood showing how they work together to handle serious situations. But on Thursday, News 8 will show you a completely different side of Ulrich and Poke and how they take time in their day to truly get to know the community that they are proud to serve.