Piedmont experienced a slight increase in reportable criminal offenses in 2021 over the previous year, with 382 incidents reported in 2021, 12 more than in 2020, police Chief Jeremy Bowers told the City Council on Monday. The numbers were driven mostly by an uptick in larceny thefts — primarily catalytic converter thefts and breaking into secured/locked vehicles and stealing something. This was a key element of Bowers’ quarterly report to the council detailing the numbers his department submits to the FBI on the city’s “Part One” crimes.
Two-hundred eighty larcenies were reported in Piedmont in 2021, compared with 236 in 2020 (and 162) in 2019. A good share of those, Bowers said, were the theft of catalytic converters from the undersides of vehicles. Catalytic converters convert toxic exhaust elements into less harmful byproducts including water vapor and carbon dioxide. They also contain rhodium, platinum and palladium, all precious metals that can be lucrative for thieves. Their theft has been a nationwide problem.
Motor vehicle thefts stayed steady in 2021 at 61, one more than in 2020, but 42 more than in 2019.
Bowers said he expects one of his department’s officers to be tapped to serve on the Alameda County Regional Auto Theft Task Force, which he hopes will help give Piedmont officers additional insight into such thefts regionally.
Better news, Bowers said, is that the number of burglaries reported in Piedmont in 2021 dropped substantially from 2020, from 61 to 25. Altogether, Piedmont police received 10,636 calls for service in 2021, up from 9,844 in 2020. There were five “use of force” situations in Piedmont in 2021, one more than the previous year, Bowers said. There were seven reported robberies in Piedmont in 2021, one more than in 2020 and two more than in 2019. In five of the seven 2021 cases, victims were approached in the street and assaulted or threatened; in the two others, Bowers said, victims sitting inside vehicles were confronted by armed suspects.
Bowers said suspects were arrested in four of those seven robberies, and he credited fast response by patrol officers and good investigative work by detectives. All, he said, were aided by Piedmont’s public safety cameras and by the city’s Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) cameras, and by law enforcement partner agencies in the region.
Regarding the ALPR cameras, Bowers said Piedmont police officers made 30 arrests attributable to the data those cameras provided. That number doesn’t include the arrests made by detectives (using both ALPRs and public safety cameras) in follow-up investigations of other cases. In 2020, Piedmont officers had made 17 arrests directly aided by the ALPRs.
Bowers’ written staff report said his department has continued working with the city’s Public Safety Committee to increase community participation in crime prevention efforts (especially Neighborhood Watch and the city’s “Care, Oneself, Residence, Environment” (CORE) strategy), and in disaster preparedness. As the COVID-19 pandemic gradually eased, outreach efforts like National Night Out and “Coffee, Cars and Cops” returned in 2021.
There were no reported homicides, arsons or rapes in Piedmont in 2021, but Bowers said that, with rape and sexual assault, that likely isn’t the entire story. “We know that this is underreporting; if we’re not getting the reports, we can’t provide support,” said Bowers, noting there are many reasons why victims don’t come forward.
Piedmont police responded to 79 traffic accidents in 2021, almost half of them hit-and-runs. Those 79 accidents compare with 49 in 2020 (down from 70 in 2019).
While Bowers said in his written report that speed and inattention continue to be the main causes of traffic collisions in Piedmont, engineering issues also contribute sometimes. To that end, an interdepartmental group made up of staff from Piedmont’s Public Works and Police Departments, along with the city engineer, is working to identify places where the physical makeup of a street is causing problems.
Contact Sam Richards at email@example.com