Police Chief Gives Update on Crime
Many people in Alameda know that I was born and raised here. I attended local schools and my parents have been active members in this community for more than 50 years. In April, I will begin my 26th year as a member of the Alameda Police Department (APD). It is a tremendous honor and privilege to be the Chief of Police in the city where I was born. I am committed to doing everything I can to make Alameda, my hometown, as safe as possible.
Over the past month, I have received several inquiries from Alamedans who are concerned about an increase in crime on the Island. While it’s true that there has been an increase compared to the same time in 2016, we are still in the midst of an overall 30-year low in crimes reported in Alameda (more on that later). Normally, the inquiries I receive about traffic safety far exceed crime concerns, but the high profile of the Starbuck’s laptop thefts and local social media posts have caused some to doubt the safety of our community and the effectiveness of the police department.
For the first time as the Chief of Police, there is a pending City Council referral asking for a report about crime in Alameda. Instead of keeping everyone in suspense, I thought I’d take an opportunity to let everyone know what the data is, both good and bad.
For background purposes, each month APD reports all crimes reported in Alameda to the FBI. These reports are based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) requirements. Within UCR, there are two types of crimes to be reported;
Part I crimes are the more serious offenses, and include murder, rape, robbery, felony assaults, theft, burglary, auto theft and arson. Part II crimes are essentially all other crimes. In Alameda, the most common Part II crimes are theft, burglary and auto theft.
For example, we have arrested six suspects to date for the recent laptop thefts from patrons at Starbucks and other businesses, and those were classified as Part I crimes. The most common Part II crimes are low-level assault, vandalism, forgery/counterfeit, drunk in public and narcotics.
Through the month of October, we have taken a total of 4,134 crime reports this year versus 3,692 over the same period in 2016. The difference amounts to an increase of 442, or 12 percent overall. This means we are taking approximately 1.5 additional reports per day compared to last year. Nearly all of that increase, 324 reports, is found in the category of grand theft (more than $400) and petty theft (less than $400).
In an effort to address this increase, I recently authorized the transfer of three of our detectives back to patrol to bolster staffing and increase our visibility. We have conducted parole and probation checks on repeat offenders, and I plan to ask the City Council to authorize the purchase of fixed Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR) for all points of ingress and egress to the Island. This will not happen until early 2018, and will hopefully augment the success we have had with the four mobile ALPR’s currently mounted on patrol cars.
Access to social media allows for a greater level of dialogue about community issues. Because of the community’s involvement on Facebook, APD has been able to solve cases from package thefts to the recent peeping Tom. But while the community is hearing more about crimes than ever before, I want to assure you that our data shows Alameda is the safest it has been in 30 years.
We recently pulled data for all crimes from 1988 to present, and as you can see in the chart above, crime in 2017 is around the same as last year and the year before. Compared to the long-term, crime today is historically low. There is still much work to be done, but I hope that having access to this data helps show the community that Alameda is a safe place to live, work and go to school.
We see a similar trend with moving citations and collisions significantly lower than they were a decade ago. Even still, our officers are on pace to write 10,000 citations this year. In October, I increased the number of motorcycle officers to four by transferring an officer from patrol into the Traffic Unit.
We are here to protect the Alameda community, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We sometimes hear from people that they think we are not doing enough, and we understand those frustrations. We are also frustrated and want to see less crime in Alameda.
The city’s budget fully funds our 88 authorized police officer positions. For many reasons, it has become increasingly difficult to recruit, hire and retain police officers. We currently are operating with 79 of 88 positions filled. The good news is that we have several potential officers in the hiring process. I refuse to lower our hiring standards, and I would rather work with vacancies than hastily hire unqualified candidates.
The community can and does help us a lot. If you see something suspicious, please contact the non-emergency line at 217-5227, and if you have an emergency, please call 911. Please add these numbers to your contacts and never hesitate to call us.
You can also sign up for Nixle to receive shelter-in-place and other law-enforcement notifications by texting your zip code to 888777 on your phone, or registering online at nixle.com. And you can follow APD and the City of Alameda on Facebook and Twitter.
APD keeps a daily log of police activity at https://alamedaca.gov/node/5053. Anyone in the community can visit that page and see a log of the reports taken on the previous day. In addition to crime reports, we also investigate traffic collisions, fraud, welfare checks and conduct preliminary mental health evaluations.
As we enter the holiday season, please be vigilant. Be sure to practice basic crime prevention practices to reduce opportunistic crimes. Lock your cars and remove valuables from view. Pay attention to your surroundings when returning to your car, using your computer at coffee shops or visiting ATMs. And please post responsibly on social media after you notify APD about suspicious activities.
Let’s continue to work together to keep Alameda safe. To contact me directly, please call my office at 337-8300 or email me at email@example.com.