PIEDMONT — While most categories of crime in Piedmont were either down or holding steady in 2019, one type went up significantly from 2018, and area police departments are working together to take it on.
The City of Piedmont experienced an overall increase in reportable offenses in 2019 over 2018 — 244 reportable “Part 1” offenses based on the Uniform Crime Report stats the city uses for reporting purposes. That total number is up from the 222 reported offenses, an increase of almost 10 percent.
This and other updates were part of a year-end 2019 crime update Piedmont police Chief Jeremy Bowers gave to the City Council Monday night
By far the biggest chunk of that overall increase, Bowers said, was in the “larceny/theft” category, which in Piedmont covers vehicle break-ins, bike thefts from open areas, catalytic converter thefts, identity thefts and similar crimes. The 2019 larceny/theft total was 162, up almost 32 percent from the 123 total reports in 2018.
Such thefts are a growing regional problem, and Bowers then explained that Piedmont is part of a consortium of Alameda County police departments combining forces over the next several months to crack down on vehicle break-ins and related property crimes.
An “operation” is planned for Piedmont in April, said Bowers, who would not go into further detail publicly. That team approach met with the approval of Mayor Robert McBain, who called the regional rise of car break-ins “an epidemic.”
“I’m glad to know there’s a conscious effort to get our arms wrapped around that on a regional basis,” McBain said.
Most other types of crime either dropped or essentially held steady in Piedmont in 2019. The number of burglaries in Piedmont in 2019 remained unchanged from 2018, with 47 reported offenses reported in each year.
Robberies were down in 2019, from 10 in 2018 to five in 2019. Of those five robberies, Bowers said, two were highly publicized home-invasion-style robberies, while the other three were street robberies in which suspects approached individuals in public areas and took property by force and/or fear. Suspects were identified and/or arrested in all five 2019 robbery incidents, Bowers noted.
Motor vehicle thefts were down in 2019, with 19 reported thefts being six fewer than in 2018.
The city’s Automated License Plate Reader cameras played a significant role in fighting vehicle theft.
In 2019, Piedmont police officers made 14 arrests and recovered 33 stolen vehicles (not all from Piedmont). In 2018, Piedmont officers made 17 arrests and recovered 29 stolen vehicles with the APLR cameras playing a significant role.
Not all the bad guys were caught, but Bowers said that’s OK. “I count their fleeing our city as a win; it was probably was somebody intent on committing a crime, and now they’re not.”
There were no homicides in Piedmont in either 2018 or 2019. Seven assaults were reported in 2019, down from 15 in 2018; and there was one reported arson in 2019, and one in 2018. Also, there were three reported rapes in 2019, up from one in 2018.
Councilwoman Jen Cavanaugh noted the rape numbers, and said that such numbers generally are significantly underreported in the United States. She asked Bowers what his department is doing to make it less harrowing, more comfortable, for sexual assaults to be reported.
Bowers said setting a professional, encouraging tone is key to encouraging more accurate reporting of rapes and sexual assaults.
Total arrests were up slightly in Piedmont in 2019 over the previous year, Bowers said. And total calls for service, at more than 14,000, were up almost 25 percent over 2018.
There were significantly fewer traffic crashes in Piedmont in 2019 — 70 — than in 2018, when there were 91, Bowers said. Most, he added, were mostly “into fixed objects or parked vehicles,” and speed and driver inattention, Bowers said, continue to be the main causes/
Piedmont police officers typically concentrate their traffic enforcement efforts on the city’s busiest thoroughfares, Bowers said — Oakland Avenue, Highland Avenue, Wildwood Avenue, Grand Avenue, Moraga Avenue, Linda Avenue, Estates Drive and Hampton Road.
Bowers also discussed the various ongoing efforts the police departments uses to connect with the Piedmont community — Neighborhood Watch groups, the Coffee, Cars, and Cops gatherings, and the annual National Night Out events — as well as the City Council’s approval in 2019 to accept a $390,000 California Department of Justice Tobacco Grant award, part of which is paying for a new Juvenile Officer, Nicole Casalnuovo, with “significant additional school and youth-related training to respond to reported incidents on school campuses,” including helping promote a culture where reporting sexual assaults is encouraged.
For a map of where specific crimes were reported (by type) in 2019, minus the sexual assaults, go to http://piedmont.hosted.civiclive.com/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=16495635
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