West Sacramento crime in 2012 far lower than PD's first figure

Published: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 - 7:44 am

The news, at first, was startling. Crime data released by West Sacramento police this week showed the city's violent and property crimes increased by 30 percent in 2012 from the previous year.

On Wednesday, the West Sacramento Police Department notified The Bee that it had supplied the newspaper with erroneous data. While the crime rate was up, it increased by only 8 percent over 2011.

Violent crimes increased 10 percent in 2012; property crimes rose 7 percent. In all, 1,681 crimes were reported in West Sacramento last year compared with 1,561 in 2011.

Of the 1,681 crimes reported in 2012, 190 were classified as violent crimes, and 1,491 as property crimes, according to West Sacramento police.

Chagrined police officials on Wednesday offered this explanation: The crime data West Sacramento police provided The Bee for 2011, which were compared with 2012's incidents, were "way too low," said police spokesman Lt. Tod Sockman.

The 2011 numbers that the department submitted to The Bee were notably lower than the figures the department submitted last year to the federal Department of Justice.

Sockman said the police department initially "ran a quick search through the computer system" to find and compile the 2011 crime statistics submitted to The Bee – not the data it reported to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports.

The FBI uses police departments' annual reports to compile national crime statistics.

Even with the corrected data, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon is clear-eyed about crime's impact on the city.

He said criminals didn't target specific neighborhoods. "There were other offenses citywide, they're definitely not occurring in one particular neighborhood," Cabaldon said. "(Crime) is a challenge across all parts of the city as it is across the country. It's a growing, significant problem."

Criminologists who talked to The Bee this week said reduced police staffing and the economy could be contributing factors in other cities in the region.

Police staffing has remained stable in West Sacramento, Sockman said, but the economy continues to take its toll.

West Sacramento has, by far, Yolo County's highest jobless rate at 17.9 percent, according to the state's Employment Development Department.

Yolo County unemployment stands at 11.7 percent.

"People have been forced from their jobs. They're losing their homes. It could be a direct reflection of what's happening in the region and the state," Sockman said.

But the police spokesman said it was hard to pinpoint the factors behind the crime numbers in his city.

Burglaries, for instance, declined each year during the recession before sharply rising again in 2012.

Still, data showed larcenies and vehicle thefts were down slightly in 2012 from 2011.

But police are vexed by break-ins. Consider that 386 burglaries were reported in West Sacramento in 2012 – a 51 percent increase over the amended 2011's 256 incidents.

"The biggest issue is burglary," he said. "We already see we need to work on burglaries."

Sockman said the department has assigned a detective to burglary cases and residents are being advised to alter the times they leave for work. Many break-ins happen in the morning hours as residents head to their jobs, Sockman said.

Still, Sockman, a 15-year police veteran, said, "This city is a safer place than when I came here years ago."

He pointed to a 19 percent drop in major crimes in the past 10 years, even as the city has grown by more than 40 percent to more than 49,000 people.

"Public safety is our primary mission. It's why we exist," said Cabaldon, saying West Sacramento remains in a "dramatic long-term decline in crime."

"It's an issue for those who live here, work here and have businesses today. It's really about basic quality of life for people in the city now. It will be clear that we're holding our own."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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