Public safety is a tough but rewarding job.
It's been my honor to be with the Fort Wayne Police Department since 1993. Fort Wayne is a tremendous place to call home. Knowing that our department has the support of elected officials, community leaders and residents sends a strong message that individuals, families and visitors of all ages can feel safe and secure while enjoying everything our great city has to offer.
We're seeing positive trends in Fort Wayne. Homicides are down 44% from last year. The clearance rate for those homicides is more than 75%. People are coming forward with information when they witness a crime or feel that something just doesn't seem right. In addition, non-fatal shootings have decreased by 16%, arrests of individuals in possession of a handgun without a license are up 27%, drug overdoses are down 30% and violent crimes are down 7%.
Fort Wayne's average violent crime rate under Mayor Tom Henry's leadership from 2008 through 2017 is lower than the average violent crime rate in the two preceding 10-year periods in Fort Wayne and also lower than the national average. From 1988-1997, the rate was 590 per 100,000 residents. From 1998-2007, the rate was 397. From 2008-2017, the rate was 346. The average violent crime rate in the United States from 2008-2017 was 396. These statistics are gathered from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting database.
We recognize that growing cities such as Fort Wayne experience crime challenges that need to be addressed. No city is perfect and criminal elements exist in our community with guns, gangs and drugs three of the major areas of concern. We're well positioned to be able to continue to provide the services you've come to expect from us to combat criminal activity. The Fort Wayne Police Department will continue to work hard fighting crime in our city. We will also continue joint enforcement efforts with other agencies to address issues in high-crime areas and to focus on known violent offenders.
Thanks to the budgetary support we receive from Mayor Henry and City Council, our department is fully staffed with 480 officers (1.8 officers per 1,000 residents), and we have the best equipment available to do our job effectively. Since I was appointed police chief in August 2016, we've increased our staffing level by 20 officers. Our goal is to grow our department with even more officers over time. Because of recruiting challenges that persist locally, statewide and throughout the country, public safety departments have to be strategic and timely on when to launch academy classes.
For those of us who are called into public safety, we're committed to making a meaningful difference through collective efforts to bring forth necessary change. An example of an initiative that's innovative and leading to positive results is the department's partnership with Fort Wayne UNITED and the TenPoint Coalition. Citywide, juvenile arrests are down 28%, and we've seen significant crime reductions in the Oxford neighborhood, where Fort Wayne UNITED and the TenPoint Coalition are concentrating their efforts. Every person has value and the ability to be a contributing member of our community.
Through our community relations division, we've increased communication and dialogue with residents and neighborhoods like never before. By focusing on relationships, we've built trust and earned the respect of the public. Besides our Neighborhood Liaison Officer program, you'll see us at block parties; participating in Community Unity nights; coffee with a cop; the Blue Bucket Brigade program; interacting with children at the Boys & Girls Clubs; helping with toy, winter coats, and book bag giveaways for children in need; and presenting Fort Wayne Community Schools' students and teachers with the Officer Phil School Safety program. One of the highlights of the year was having several children in grades 5-8 complete our junior police summer camp. Our young people and future leaders have so much to offer.
Providing excellent public safety services is a vital component of our ability to be a safe and successful community. Please know the men and women of the Fort Wayne Police Department appreciate and value the public's support of the work we do each day to serve and protect residents, neighborhoods and businesses.
Steve Reed is police chief for the city of Fort Wayne.