One year into the Covid-19 pandemic, Salisbury had its safest year on record with fewer crimes, better fire and EMS response times and help for the homeless and vulnerable populations.
“Delivering this kind of news never gets old,” City Administrator Julia Glanz said Tuesday on the one-year anniversary of a statewide lockdown on restaurants, businesses and other public places.
“Literally overnight everything was different,” she said. “It was the beginning of one of the strangest and most frightening times in the nation’s history.”
The city also took measures to help slow the spread of the virus by enacting its own restrictions and by protecting the homeless and other vulnerable populations.
City officials opened a camp in Lake Street Park for the city’s homeless population, and eventually moved them into more permanent housing. A cold weather shelter remained Covid-free during the entire winter, Glanz said.
The pandemic affected all aspects of city government, but its impact was significant at the Salisbury Police Department.
“This was a very interesting year for us,” said Chief Barbara Duncan.
The department was short-staffed at times over the past year when 22 members tested positive for Covid-19, she said. Another 83 people had to be quarantined for 14 days after they were exposed to the virus.
But the pandemic also created a significant decrease in calls for service. The department normally receives between 50,000 to 60,000 calls each year, but that dropped to 43,015, Duncan said.
The department also reported that its rate for Part 1 crimes, such as murder, burglary and assault, decreased over the past decade from 2,688 in 2010 to 1,319 in 2020. Duncan said the department is working to bring that number below 1,000.
Over the same 10-year period, burglaries in Salisbury were down 54 percent, robbery decreased by 73 percent and aggravated assault was down 40 percent, she said.
Part of the success was attributed to the arrests of a few key people that had a significant impact, Duncan said. The department also worked with the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office on some investigations.
At the Salisbury Fire Department, calls for service increased over the past decade by almost 30 percent, with 3,807 fire calls and 10,093 EMS calls, said Chief John Tull.
The department also made strides in response times, he said. In 2019, city firefighters responded to structure fires within 9 minutes 79 percent of the time. In 2020 with a goal of 90 percent, they achieved that 100 percent of the time.
The fire department also set a 90 percent goal for an 8-minute response to priority medical calls, and they achieved that 94 percent of the time, Tull said.
Another goal was to contain a fire to the room of origin 50 percent of the time. Firefighters exceeded that with 67 percent in 2020, which was up from 59 percent in 2019.
Tull attributed part of the department’s success to a federal grant that allowed him to hire 21 new members. The additional personnel mean full staffing at all three stations.
Glanz said city workers should be proud of their accomplishments during an unusual year.
“With all of the negative, it was an incredibly remarkable year for this team,” she said.