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Mixed bag for crime numbers in Yuba County, Marysville

Appeal-Democrat - 7/17/2017

July 16--Editor's Note: Reflecting on the wave of violent crime in the area last year, this year seems calmer. We asked reporter Rachel Rosenbaum to check with area authorities to make a comparison and look for ideas on why this year is different from last year and to collect any available statistics or anecdotal information. The information is presented by major local law enforcement agencies -- Sutter County and Yuba City were yesterday; Marysville and Yuba County today.

Yuba County Sheriff's Office

Preliminary statistics from the Yuba County Sheriff's Office show burglary and aggravated assaults are trending up from last year, though other categories are fairly stable and low, overall.

The sheriff's department provided comparisons for 2016 and 2017 "Part 1" crimes, which are defined by the FBI's Uniform Crime Report as including burglary, larceny, vehicle theft, aggravated assault, homicide, rape, and robbery.

The year-to-date data show that burglary rose to 224 so far this year, from 163 during the same time last year; aggravated assaults rose from 64 to 89. Larceny dropped to 369 in 2017 from 423 the same time last year.

Crime Analyst Leslie Carbah said in an email Thursday that 41 percent of the aggravated assaults from the first quarter of this year were categorized as domestic or other family violence. Gang-related assault made up 9 percent.

"Regarding burglaries, a good number of residential burglaries occur to unsecure garages, sheds, shops, etc. While we do have some forced entry to interiors of homes, they are in the minority," Carbah said. "We stress the importance of crime prevention for impacting these types of burglaries. Things like ensuring property is locked and secure, good lighting, neighborhood watch programs, alarm systems, and reporting of suspicious activity can all go a long way in deterring property crime. Vacant residences and people gone for an extended time are often targets, so making properties appear occupied can also help significantly."

Carbah also said residents and businesses should record property identification information, such as make, model and serial number information -- so that if they are ever a victim of a property crime, the sheriff's department can record that identifying information to be traced back to the rightful owner. She advised to also take pictures of valuable items such as art or jewelry.

Things like tools or other property that don't have unique identifiers should be permanently marked or etched. She recommends using an ID or driver's license number.

"We often locate property in possession of suspects that we believe is likely stolen, but with no way to trace back to victim owners, it makes closing out those cases a challenge," Carbah said.

Sheriff Steve Durfor said though burglary and assault have spiked since last year, overall numbers of incidents aren't very high. Unlike many state agencies that have seen dramatic increases in crime, Durfor said the sheriff's office rates have stayed relatively static.

"It's a matter of perspective," Durfor said Thursday. "Over the last several years, our (Uniform Crime Reporting) crimes have fluctuated very little, they're relatively flat."

Like Durfor's counterparts from other local agencies, he attributes spikes in property crimes to legislation.

"Some of it could very well lend itself to what many law enforcement agencies are attributing to changes in law and sentencing practices," Durfor said. "A large number of individuals are now being issued citations and being returned to the streets instead of being incarcerated."

Durfor said his highest priority for the department is to continue to stabilize staffing levels. And with the new sheriff's department facility, which Durfor called "a huge accomplishment," he said work will continue in finalizing the operational readiness of it.

Another sizable project on the horizon for the department is the jail expansion project, which will accommodate medical and mental health services for the jail.

"It's underway," Durfor said, "soon we will start to see more obvious signs of construction."

The project is estimated to be complete in the latter part of 2020, he said. The county received a $20 million grant and will go toward adding program space and improving infrastructure with the goal of reducing recidivism.

Marysville Police Department

Police Chief Aaron Easton said there hasn't been much variation in the numbers of Part 1 crimes.

"Since 2009, crimes have gone from 44 Part 1 crimes to 51 per 1,000 (population)," Easton said Thursday.

From 2015 to last year, aggravated assault rose slightly (by 11 incidents); burglary rose by 30 incidents; larceny dropped by 16 incidents; and vehicle thefts rose by eight, according to data provided by Easton.

Where he has seen a noticeable change in numbers, Easton said, is in the calls for service. Calls are categorized by being initiated by dispatch, or officer-initiated. Easton said officer-initiated calls occur when officers are patrolling and come across a call, versus someone else reporting it.

From 2010-12, the department reported an estimated 13,500 self-initiated calls for service, Easton said. Starting in 2013, that number dropped to around 8,000.

Easton attributes this to the economic downturn and cuts in staffing: in 2007, the department had as many as 26 sworn officers; in mid-2016, there were 16.

"We consider self-initiated calls to be more proactive, preventative policing," Easton said. "Those are the type of calls we want ... You want those numbers to rise, not to fall."

Luckily, the Marysville City Council allotted the department an extra three officers in this budget, who will be divvied up between patrol, gang enforcement, and a school resource officer.

In addition, Easton has been working on getting the wheels turning on a project that has been in the works for years. The goal within the next few months is for each patrol officer to be assigned to a certain section of the city they will become experts of.

"(The goal) is to make personal contacts and build relationships with the people in their regions," Easton said, "and know the specific cultures within different parts of the city."

That is different from police beats, as there are typically a number of officers on duty at a given time, responsible for every call within the city. Instead, officers assigned to each geographic area will spend down time becoming familiar with the people. In addition, Easton hopes to have an interactive map with contact information for each area's assigned officer.

"I'm very excited to be able to get back into this," he said.

All but one of the budgeted 19 sworn positions will be filled within the next month. And though staffing is a statewide issue, Easton said the department is learning to cope with what they have.

"We could still use more staffing, there's no doubt about that. But we're clearly on an upward trajectory with that."

Easton said the department's greatest strength is its relationship within the community: with monthly Coffee with a Cop events, the Citizens Academy, quarterly forums and school seminars, he believes this helps deter crime.

"We see that as a very integral component in if not lowering crime, keeping (the rates) steady," he said. "It means the community being part of the solution as well. The programs we do really drive that home."

The Police Department's 2016 report will be provided to the City Council on Tuesday night.

CONTACT Rachel Rosenbaum at 749-4771 and on Twitter @RaeRosenbaum.

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(c)2017 the Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, Calif.)

Visit the Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, Calif.) at www.appeal-democrat.com

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