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  • Renée C. Byer / Bee file, 2012

    SWAT officers respond during an incident last May in which gunfire left a suspected car thief dead and a police dog hurt in Land Park.

  • José Luis Villegas / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Rochelle Ortega looks into the coffin holding the body of her son, Anthony Navarro, at Carmichael's Sierra View Funeral Chapel on Tuesday. Navarro, 19, was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting in Oak Park on Jan. 17. Residents of the city of Sacramento reported 5 percent more violent crimes last year than in 2011.

  • José Luis Villegas / Bee file, 2012

    Friends and relatives gather near the scene of a triple homicide in Rancho Cordova last October. Rancho Cordova police reported a 21 percent increase in violent crime in 2012 over the year before.

  • José Luis Villegas / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Friends of Anthony Navarro embrace as they pay their respects Tuesday at Sierra View Funeral Chapel in Carmichael. Navarro was fatally shot last month in Oak Park. A second suspect in the killing was arrested Tuesday. See story on Page B2.

Sacramento area sees reported crime jump last year

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 - 11:16 am

Sacramento area residents reported more murders, robberies, rapes and thefts to police last year than during 2011, ending a string of consecutive annual crime declines, according to statistics from nine of the largest law enforcement agencies in the region.

Few areas went unscathed. In the city of Sacramento, violent crime rose 5 percent. In the Sacramento County sheriff's jurisdiction, it rose 12 percent.

Folsom, Roseville, Rancho Cordova and West Sacramento each saw violent crime reports increase by 15 percent or more.

The jump marks at least a pause in the long-term decline in crime generally seen across the Sacramento region and the nation. The U.S. violent crime rate in 2011 was roughly half the rate from 1991.

The FBI is still collecting year-end crime totals for agencies nationwide. But data for the first six months of the year indicated that the nation, too, was seeing a modest crime increase.

Criminologists cautioned that one year's worth of data does not establish a trend.

The number of crimes reported in most communities in the Sacramento region remains lower than two or three years ago because of earlier declines. Crime dropped in the city of Sacramento, for instance, five years in a row.

Timothy Capron, a criminal justice professor at California State University, Sacramento, said the 2012 statistics are "a little bit" concerning and likely the result of, among other things, reduced police staffing and the economy.

"If you are chronically unemployed and your benefits have expired, you might turn to crime," Capron said.

Sacramento County Sheriff's Sgt. Jason Ramos said crime may also be up because of prison "realignment," the program the state has used to shift more responsibility for low-level offenders to counties. The shift has caused an "increase in the number of people on the streets with a higher propensity to commit crimes," Ramos said.

The rising numbers concern sheriff's officials, but the department will not make immediate, drastic changes in response, Ramos said.

"I don't know that 12 months' data compared to four to five years is enough to say the tide is changing for sure," he said.

Violent crime trends varied greatly last year from neighborhood to neighborhood.

In the city of Sacramento, violent crime – which encompasses murder, robbery, sexual assault and aggravated assault – rose significantly on Broadway near Land Park, along Del Paso Boulevard in the Old North Sacramento neighborhood, and in several parts of Natomas near apartment complexes or shopping centers.

Much of Oak Park and Valley Hi saw violent crime decrease, though crime rates in those neighborhoods remain comparatively high.

On Jason Tescher's block in Oak Park, a dozen different families were burglarized last year. One neighbor woke one morning to intruders in her house.

The crimes mobilized his neighborhood, which set up a private Facebook group to exchange information about incidents and suspicious activity.

"Did it have an impact on my desire to live in Oak Park? No," said Tescher, 42. "But it has made me more aware of my surroundings."

Tescher said he and his neighbors have a good relationship with police and call often, even if they know the activity they're reporting won't prompt an officer to be dispatched.

"It's not just to get a police officer out for a particular issue," he said. "It's also to build a record of what's happening in the neighborhood. And unless we're a data point, resources will not be sent our way."

Officer Michele Gigante, a police spokeswoman, said Sacramento's crime increase likely reflects a "cumulative effect" of budget cuts and societal influences.

She, along with other local authorities, cited long-term decreases in funding for courts, prosecutors, probation and parole supervision, and cuts to social services for those with mental illness.

In 2008, two years into the city's five-year drop in crime, Sacramento had 800 sworn police officers. Today, it has about 625. Specialty units including traffic and narcotics have been eliminated, and the number of detectives has been cut, reducing the likelihood of follow-up on some cases, Gigante said.

The department is preparing to run its first academy in years this summer, with the influx of millions of dollars from Sacramento's Measure U sales tax measure on the horizon. Gigante said she hopes the agency has hit "rock bottom" in terms of its budget and that the 2012 statistics are an irregularity.

"We're prepared to move forward," she said. "We're beginning the rebuilding process but, unfortunately, it's a slow process."

In the sheriff's jurisdiction, violent crime reports increased sharply between Highway 50 and Folsom Boulevard in western Rancho Cordova. Much of Carmichael also saw significant increases, as did the Bowling Green neighborhood in south Sacramento and areas near the Capital City Freeway on the north side of Arden, according to a Bee review of crime report data.

Much of eastern Arden near Ethan Way saw violent crime drop, as did the Rosemont area sandwiched between Rancho Cordova and Sacramento.

Elk Grove saw violent crime drop and property crime remain flat. Citrus Heights saw declines in both violent and property crime.

The highest spike among jurisdictions surveyed by The Bee was in West Sacramento, where police reported a 32 percent increase in violent crime and a 30 percent jump in property crime.

Lt. Tod Sockman did not have an immediate explanation for the numbers, other than to say they were not surprising.

"Everybody's experiencing these higher numbers and I don't think West Sac is different than anywhere else," Sockman said. "We're busier. They'll all tell you they're busier. Everybody I talk to across the (Sacramento) River says the same thing."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.



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