By MANJIT SAPPAL
Martinez Chief of Police
As 2017 fades as another year behind us, we look to 2018 as a time to improve and build on lessons learned. For those of us at the Police Department, this often means examining crime data to see how we did over the course of the year.
While we look at the numbers at the end of the year to provide a comparison against the previous year, we also look at crime data every month to see if we have any alarming trends. When we see a spike in a specific type of crime, we look at strategies for interrupting the pattern.
Since 2015 we were focused on the increase in property crimes as we were seeing a dramatic increase.
At the end of 2015 our auto burglaries were up 29% and auto thefts were up 14%. We spent time sending out crime prevention information to the community and tried to focus on prevention. Officers and detectives pushed this message, focused on known offenders, and dedicated resources on impacting the problem. We conducted numerous special operations, surveillances, and investigative activities to stem the increase, but none were anywhere close to successful when compared to the help that you, the community, provided us when we asked for assistance. We asked the community to call us about suspicious behavior, to not leave any items in their cars, and to be mindful about where they park their cars.
In 2016 we began to see a drop in the number of auto burglaries – at the end of the year they decreased 39%. Auto thefts, however, were up 47%.
At this point we decided to continue focusing on known offenders, working with our regional law enforcement partners, and continuing with asking the community to focus on prevention as much as possible. Preventing a car theft can be challenging; unlike an auto burglary in which you can keep any items from view in your car as a means of deterring a burglar from breaking in, it is difficult to prevent someone from stealing your car. However, using an alarm or steering wheel lock can be of great benefit and calling in about suspicious behavior when you see people walking about in your neighborhood that are peering into cars or you see the same car driving around the block repeatedly, can be of great value.
For 2017, we saw a dramatic decrease in property crimes as the chart shows (click ‘read more’ link below). Property crimes decreased by approximately 28%! Auto burglaries decreased 26%, auto thefts decreased 33%, residential burglaries decreased 30%, and overall, our violent and property crimes decreased by 24%!
While it is difficult to draw conclusions as to the precise cause of the decreases, since crime is affected by so many variables, I do believe that these decreases are, in part, due to great work by the community in helping take prevention measures as well as calling us to report suspicious behavior. I also believe that we have some extremely dedicated and hard-working police officers and non-sworn staff. They work in challenging conditions and are committed to doing the best they can to keep the community safe. I do wish to thank them for the great work that they do. Lastly, we added the use of ALPR (Automated License Plate Readers) within this last few months to assist us with recognizing stolen vehicles.
Lastly, I wanted to highlight great work by many of our officers. Within the last two months, officers have taken five guns off the street during arrests.
One involved a sergeant on foot patrol on Main Street that responded to the report of a fight. During contact with an individual involved in the fight, the suspect was found to be in possession of a firearm; during a follow up contact, this suspect was found to have another firearm.
Another incident involved a traffic stop in which the driver of the car had a gun on his lap as the officer made contact; this suspect was wanted for a shooting into an inhabited dwelling that occurred prior to the arrest. Another arrest involved a follow up on a probation search and another involved an officer stopping a person that had a gun in his pocket. This case was notable in that the suspect was with a young woman that was found to be a victim of human trafficking. All of these incidents present danger to the community and the officers responding; we have extremely well-trained officers that were able to take people into custody, under dangerous and stressful circumstances, without resulting in injuries to anyone. They have my admiration and I am proud of all our employees!