Crime - Sacto 911

Sacramento police chief pledges to address crime increase

Sacramento Police Chief Sam Somers will soon meet with council members to discuss how to address the city’s rising crime rate.
Sacramento Police Chief Sam Somers will soon meet with council members to discuss how to address the city’s rising crime rate.

Sacramento Police Chief Sam Somers will soon meet with City Council members to discuss specific ways to address the city’s rising crime rate, including the expansion of a “ShotSpotter” program that automatically notifies police when it detects gunshots, the mayor’s office announced Monday.

Through August, Sacramento police had responded to 2,511 violent crimes, a 24 percent increase over the same period in the prior year, police statistics show. The city has not seen that many violent crimes through August of any year since 2010. As of today, 36 homicides have taken place in Sacramento during 2015, eight more than occurred during all of 2014. The Sacramento Bee reported on the increase – which is also occurring in cities across the state and nation – and its impacts earlier this month.

Before this year, violent crime in the city had fallen steadily. It remains below levels seen 10 or 20 years ago, police statistics show.

Somers and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson met Thursday at City Hall. Johnson said he called the meeting “to never be caught flatfooted, especially when it comes to public safety.”

In a statement, Somers said, “Our department takes the crime rate very seriously. Behind every crime statistic is a person, and we are keenly aware of the importance of safety in the community.”

Police introduced the ShotSpotter program earlier this year in North Sacramento, where gunshots are a regular occurrence. Violent crime in that area, which covers Robla, Del Paso Heights and the communities around Del Paso Boulevard, is up about 35 percent through August compared to last year.

ShotSpotter relies on a network of microphone sensors to listen for and record noises in a specific area. If the sensor detects a high-pitched sound resembling a gunshot, acoustics experts from the company pinpoint the location and transmit the information to police.

Somers said the program may expand to the south part of the city. Police District 5, which covers Meadowview, Valley Hi and the communities around Mack Road, has seen violent crime jump 39 percent through August compared to last year.

In addition to ShotSpotter, the city’s efforts will be driven by an initiative called “Officer Next Door,” the mayor and police chief said. The initiative is funded by $5 million in next year’s budget and will add 15 police officers and expand gang-prevention efforts.

Somers will next meet with council members to discuss “specific issues in their districts,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. City Councilman Larry Carr, whose district includes parts of Meadowview and Mack Road, said he’s not sure why crime is rising but added that the city is taking action to address it. For instance, police have deployed several new mobile cameras in “areas that are troublesome,” he said. “It tells people they are under surveillance.”

His community also is taking part in a citywide initiative to find more jobs for at-risk youths and a “Summer Night Lights” program that gives teens and others something positive to do. Carr said he is working to expand the number of neighborhood associations and crime watches in the south area.

Derrell Roberts, a community activist in North Sacramento, said he welcomes the renewed commitment from police and city officials but added that stemming violent crime in his community will take more than enhanced law enforcement. He said young people in his community need more jobs, more structured activities and healthier school and home environments so they won’t be tempted by crime.

“More cops on the street – if that was the answer, we could have solved this a long time ago,” he said. “It’s total commitment.”

Phillip Reese: 916-321-1137, @PhillipHReese