Violent crime dropped slightly and property crime dropped sharply in the city of Sacramento from 2015 to 2016, bucking a nationwide trend, according to figures released by police Wednesday afternoon.
About 3,560 violent crimes were reported in the city during 2016, down by 55, or 1.5 percent, from 2015. Nationwide crime statistics are available only for the first half of 2016, but violent crimes were up 5 percent compared to the first six months of 2015.
Crime in Sacramento has fallen sharply over the last few decades, but it rose by more than 20 percent in 2015, causing police to sharpen their focus on hot spots. The new figures show that the uptick in violent crime hasn’t continued, though crime remains well above 2014 levels.
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The largest decline in violent crime – a 10 percent decrease – happened in City Council District 2, which includes Del Paso Heights and Old North Sacramento.
Police Sgt. Bryce Heinlein said the city has deployed a large number of cameras in North Sacramento. Police have also extensively used the ShotSpotter system of microphones, which sends alerts when shots are fired.
“I think that has been huge in those neighborhoods,” Heinlein said. “We have a north gang enforcement team that has been hugely active.”
Darrell Roberts, a community activist in North Sacramento, said new programs that give teenagers something to do, particularly on summer nights, have contributed to the decline in violent crime in his community.
“We have activities that are designed to keep our teenagers busy,” he said.
Roberts said recent police efforts to reach out to residents in North Sacramento also are paying off, with residents more willing to see police as partners rather than adversaries.
Even with the sharp decline, though, District 2 still saw more violent crimes in 2016 than any other council district in Sacramento, city figures show. “It’s not even a question” that more work needs to be done, Roberts said. “I’m almost knocking on wood at the same time we talk.”
Other parts of the city saw single-digit changes in the number of violent crimes from 2015 to 2016, with the exception of council District 6, which covers southeast Sacramento. Violent crime in that district jumped by more than 25 percent from 2015 to 2016, driven by large increases in robberies and aggravated assaults.
In the second half of 2016, the Asian community in southeast Sacramento was targeted during a string of robberies. “I think that was a contributing factor,” Heinlein said. The robberies have diminished in number, but “we do still see these crimes being committed.”
After local officials and the news media showered attention on the issue, the crimes against Asian Americans in south Sacramento went down, according to community leaders. However, that trend evaporated as of last month, with the robberies and assaults reaching levels not seen since September, said Scott Song, a volunteer who helps the victims.
“The violence has erupted again,” Song said in Mandarin, describing the recent string of incidents as “ambushes.”
Instead of simply robbing victims on the spot, assailants have turned more aggressive, attacking individuals while they take out the trash or as they shut the garage door.
“Their tactics have completely changed,” said Winne San, another volunteer. “They are putting guns to people’s heads. Many have moved to Los Angeles to escape the violence.”
San expressed exhaustion, noting that the many families have been coping with the threat for months in south Sacramento. About 25 individuals still patrol nightly in the troubled neighborhoods, responding to incidents as they are reported on the Chinese social media app WeChat.
A group of Chinese Americans has formed the Asian American Public Safety Service Center, a Sacramento nonprofit that assists victims of crime and helps train volunteers with firearm handling. Song is vice president of the organization.
“There’s still a lot of crime out there,” said Tom Phong, owner of Welco Supermarket.
Phong, a longtime community leader, delivered 2,000 signatures to the city last year demanding that officials take action. His grocery store still closes early because few customers shop at night, fearing for their safety.
Property crime across the city fell by about 7 percent from 2015 to 2016. It fell by a particularly large amount – 17 percent – in City Council District 1, which covers North Natomas.
Heinlein said the drop in property crime may be due to the vigilance of neighborhood community watch groups and the installation of cameras across much of the city.
“With the implementation of all these (camera) pods over the city, auto theft has gone down,” he said. “Our bait-bike program has also been a deterrent.”