PPD: Crime down slightly overall in first quarter of 2021

Piedmont Police Department

These burglary tools associated with catalytic converter theft, along with a replica firearm, cross bow, and drug paraphernalia were found in a traffic stop in Piedmont in early February 2021.

Reportable crime in Piedmont was down slightly the first three months of this year over the same period in 2020, police Chief Jeremy Bowers told the City Council on Monday night in his quarterly report.

The council took the opportunity to praise Bowers and the department as a whole for ongoing work to look at local policing “through a racial equity lens.” Information about how that work has gotten done, and about how it’s planned to continue, will be featured prominently in the department’s soon-to-be-published Strategic Plan 2021-2024, Bowers told the council.

Bowers said Monday night that, overall, the city reported a small decrease in reportable offenses over the first quarter of 2021, compared to the first three months of 2020, from 78 reportable offenses in 2020 to 73 offenses the first three months of this year. 

The biggest drop in 2021 was with burglaries, defined generally here as the “unlawful entry into a dwelling or specified structure with the intent to commit a theft or other felony,” which went from 17 incidents through the first quarter of 2020 down to six incidents over the first three months of 2021. Four of the six burglaries that were reported were concentrated east of Piedmont Park near Blair Avenue.

Incidents classified by Piedmont police as larceny/theft — breaking into a locked vehicle to steal something — were up slightly in first quarter 2021 from a year ago, increasing from 47 in 2020 to 54 during that three-month period this year. In the first three months of 2021, no homicides were reported, the same as 2020; there were three reported assaults during first quarter 2020 versus one this year, and vehicle thefts this first quarter were at 10, the same number as during the same three months in 2020.

Larceny/thefts were reported throughout the city, with a slight concentration north of Oakland Avenue. The vehicle theft reports came from all parts of the city. Bowers said there has been a spate of vehicle break-ins recently, which will be reflected in the second-quarter crime report.

Of the 12 reports of vandalism during the first three months of 2021, nine of them were in the Oakland Avenue/Grand Avenue corridor.

Bowers said there were no rapes reported during the first quarter of 2021; one was reported during the same period in 2020. The chief also stressed that rapes and sexual assaults generally go underreported. Bowers said he will be a panelist as part of a May 27 forum on sexual assault hosted by the Piedmont Unified School District, and said Monday night it’s important for victims to report these incidents to police. 

Bowers praised the city’s automated license plate reader (ALPR) cameras (and public safety cameras stationed at Oakland Avenue and Grand Avenue) in helping solve local crimes. He said Piedmont police officers made 13 arrests and recovered 15 stolen vehicles with direct help from the ALPRs through the first quarter of 2021; that compares to one arrest and two recovered stolen vehicles during the first three months of 2020.

Bowers said 18 traffic collision reports were completed through the first three months of 2021, a significant increase from nine during the first quarter of 2020. As has been true in the past, Bowers said, speed and inattention continue to be the main factors leading to collisions.

While the Covid 19 pandemic limited the police department’s crime prevention community outreach efforts in 2020 — the department depended more than ever on social media to discuss crime and crime prevention during the lockdown — Bowers said he hopes loosening of health-related restrictions will allow for the traditional series of National Night Out neighborhood get-togethers in August.

In his presentation Monday night, Bowers talked about the Strategic Plan’s five main topics — policing and legislative reforms, community engagement and external communications, employee development and wellness, internal department communication and technology and police facility issues.

“It’s going to bring about a new level of engagement with the community,” Bowers said. The report will be posted on the city’s webpage when it’s finished, he said. 

Bowers said the Strategic Plan report will touch on Racial Identity Profiling Act (RIPA), to eliminate racial and identity profiling, and improve diversity and racial and identity sensitivity in law enforcement. Falling within the strategic plan’s goals, Bowers said, will be the July start of tracking and reporting demographic information to the California Department of Justice on traffic stops initiated by Piedmont officers. 

Also coming under the plan, Bowers said, is an agreement with a consultant (now being negotiated) to analyze Piedmont’s calls for service for later discussion about possible alternatives to police officer response in some cases, and calls for service from the public that lack “specific criminal-related behavior and may be bias-based,” Bowers’ report said.

Council members, including Jen Cavenaugh and Conna McCarthy, told Bowers they were pleased with the department’s various moves in this direction.    

In a related topic, Councilwoman Betsy Smegal Andersen asked Bowers about how often Alameda County responds to mental health-related calls in Piedmont. Bowers didn’t have the numbers at hand Monday, but said those numbers are indeed tracked. 

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