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Police Chief: violent crime dropped 12% in Citrus Heights during 2017

Crime statistics, Citrus Heights
A slide from the Citrus Heights Police Department’s annual crime report shows statistics for 8 categories of crime. // Image courtesy, CHPD

Sentinel staff report–
An annual crime report presented to the Citrus Heights City Council by the police chief in March showed an overall decrease in violent crime in the city last year, along with increases in several categories of crime.

Compared to the prior year, the data showed double-digit drops in assault, arson and homicide, while also showing a double-digit rise in burglary, robbery, and rape incidents in 2017. A slight uptick in theft by 3% was also reported.

The police chief’s annual crime report is traditionally presented to the city council each year in March and is based on crime data from “Part 1” of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which tracks eight categories of crimes that are broken down by property crimes and persons crimes. Property crimes include burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson, and persons crimes include homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

During his March 22 report, Chief Ron Lawrence called the drop in violent crime a “remarkable feat,” noting preliminary data from the FBI shows a majority of cities in California with populations over 100,000 saw increases in violent crime during the first half of 2017, according to the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. Comparison data for the full year is not currently available, but is typically released by the FBI in the fall.

While violent crime dropped overall in the city, property crimes, which made up 89% of crime in the city last year, increased by 4%. Lawrence attributed most of the increase to the department’s ramped up “bait” program, which he said resulted in 107 felony arrests last year. The chief said when bait arrests are excluded from the report, property crime levels remained essentially the same during 2016 and 2017.

From December: Police ‘bait’ items have led to over 100 felony arrests in Citrus Heights this year

Chief Lawrence also presented five-year crime statistics, showing crime rates in the city have been roughly stable since 2013. A 10-year comparison of “Part 1” crime data shows overall crime has dropped by nearly 25% in Citrus Heights.

crime, citrus heights
A slide from the Citrus Heights Police Department’s annual report shows 5-year crime trends in the city. // Image credit: CHPD

The multi-year crime statistics show homicides in the city were at a five-year low last year, with the only homicide of 2017 occurring when an elderly woman was knocked down during a robbery of a Citrus Heights Rite Aid store in November, leading to her death several days later. One suspect has been arrested in the case, and Lawrence said another suspect has been identified and is expected to be apprehended and charged with robbery and conspiracy.

Lawrence also included data on traffic collisions, which dropped from 859 in 2016 down to 744 last year, including a 3% drop in DUI collisions. He said the department handled over 68,000 calls for service, with an additional 20,000 instances of officer-initiated activity.

CHPD’s annual crime reports do not include “Part 2” crimes, which are considered less serious and are only required to be reported if there is an arrest, according to the FBI’s website. Examples of Part 2 crimes include fraud, vandalism, statutory rape, and assaults or attempted assaults that “are not of an aggravated nature and do not result in serious injury to the victim.”

Council comments
Councilman Bret Daniels praised the department for staying within budget during the prior year and said police officers perform “the hardest job in the world.” He also called the increase in rape cases “very alarming,” noting the rise from 38 cases in 2016 up to 50 last year, and questioned whether the incidents were “stranger rapes.”

Lawrence replied that the “vast majority of these are known suspects; so it’s not like we have an unknown suspect running around here.” Citing an example of a man who was arrested after raping an elderly woman last year in Citrus Heights, the chief said in cases where the suspect is unknown, the department will “go out of our way to inform the public and make sure people are as safe as they can possibly be.”

Vice Mayor Jeannie Bruins said any increases in categories of crime are “always disturbing,” but questioned whether the increase could be from more people reporting crime rather than an actual increase in crime. Lawrence said criminologists refer to unreported crimes as the “dark figure of crime,” and said it’s typically more of a factor in areas where the community doesn’t trust police — which he said is not an issue in Citrus Heights.

Councilman Albert Fox, who has a background in law enforcement and criminal justice, noted relatively little change in crime when looking at five-year trends and called the crime figures presented “totally acceptable.”

The police chief’s full slide presentation with additional statistics can be viewed online by clicking here.

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