Police chief, city officials acknowledge crime concerns ahead of Sept. meeting

Jeremy Bowers is the Chief of the Piedmont Police Department

Police Chief Jeremy Bowers said he has heard a lot of concerns from Piedmont residents about crime, and he plans to provide some statistics and other observations during his next quarterly report to the Piedmont City Council during its Sept. 18 regular meeting.

In fact, Bowers wants Piedmont residents to hear his presentation at that meeting; he said so himself on his department’s Facebook page last month.

Mayor Jen Cavenaugh said she welcomes the discussion, which she expects will include recommended strategies to address the current crime issues, including ways community members can continue to be diligent in ensuring their own safety and in securing their property. Cavenaugh said she expects Bowers to specifically address community concerns and share his perspective on crime trends in Piedmont and broader regional issues which impact Piedmont.

“Given our geography and proximity to a large urban center, we generally see crime patterns that mirror those in neighboring cities,” Cavenaugh said.

Vice Mayor Betsy Smegal Andersen agreed, saying she is concerned about crime as a regional phenomenon, affecting Piedmont, Oakland, Berkeley, and the greater Bay Area.

“I expect to see that Piedmont’s statistics are similar to those of our neighboring communities and the region as a whole,” Smegal Andersen said.

Bowers concurred, asserting that most crime in Piedmont is the “spillover” type from adjacent areas.

While recent numbers for most categories of reported crimes against persons (such as robbery) have remained consistent with historical trends, an exception has been assaults, which have increased steadily from just a few years ago. Piedmont has also experienced a jump in property crime, notably thefts, he said. 

As of last week, Piedmont crime stats to be discussed on Sept. 18 were still being compiled; Bowers said they will be made available shortly before that meeting. But there have been several recent reported physical attacks on Piedmont residents that have fueled concern. 

On July 29, there was an armed carjacking near Park Way and Monte Avenue; three men in a black 2003 Lexus 4-door with paper plates were the suspects. The car, a 2021 dark gray BMW X3 stolen from Piedmont, was recovered in Hayward later that day.

On Aug. 11, around 7 p.m., a 74-year-old man on foot was followed on Scenic Avenue by two vehicles and then attacked by four men who jumped from the vehicles, pushed him to the ground, and stole his watch. A short time later, police received reports of two similar vehicles speeding on Highland and Moraga avenues.

About three hours later that same night, Piedmont officers came upon a disabled car with a smashed windshield parked in the wrong direction on the roadway; two people found there were arrested on outstanding warrants related to burglary, auto theft, and possession of methamphetamine.

And early in the morning of Aug. 29, police chased a stolen car in the Sotelo Avenue/Glen Alpine Road area; two stolen vehicles were later found abandoned nearby (one had been stolen from Hampton Road). No arrests had been made as of Thursday.

Bowers said he encourages Piedmont residents to be careful, and to be watchful.

“The public is critical on these issues and are our eyes and ears,” Bowers said. “We need folks to call if they see behavior which may be associated with a crime.” His department also welcomes the help that “private surveillance,” most notably video protection, can provide. Residents can join a police department registry indicating they can provide private surveillance videos to officers investigating crimes at or near homes where footage is recorded.

Police officers appreciate when the public comes to them, but Bowers said he and his officers do plenty of their own outreach, too. That includes meeting with community organizations such as Piedmont Seniors to discuss crime trends, and discussing safety-related issues at “Cop on the Block” events. 

“We see community engagement and communication as fundamentally important to PPD and the community,” Bowers said.

Bowers also said he believes in continually evaluating the department’s policies — the department supports “best practices” and its own mission in addition to the law, he said.

“I know our pursuit policy has been a topic of conversation and appreciate hearing the perspectives from the community,” Bowers said.

Current policy allows Piedmont officers to initiate a pursuit of someone suspected to be involved in a violent crime that involves serious bodily injury or harm, or that involves the use or threat of using a deadly weapon. Police are also permitted to chase an intoxicated driver who presents a danger to themselves or others. In those situations, officers can pursue a vehicle to make a traffic stop of the offending driver.

But such pursuits should be terminated, Bowers said, if the suspect driver “accelerates in an unsafe manner,” becoming a threat to drivers, pedestrians, and others.

He said he is concerned about easing the existing policy for several reasons. Vehicle chases can present an increased safety risk to the public, as well as to Piedmont officers and those from the Oakland Police Department who in many cases would be asked to offer support. Pursuits also require investigations of their own, increasing overall time spent by officers in both cities on such incidents.

Still, Bowers said he’s willing to have those discussions with the community.

Andersen said she is concerned about the increase in gun violence regionally and nationally, especially the proliferation of illegal and unregistered firearms. She encourages Piedmonters to become familiar with any of several national organizations with a local presence, including Brady: United Against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and the League of Women Voters, which work toward non-partisan policy solutions.

Additionally, simply keeping one’s eyes and ears open is always a good idea, she said.

“As community members, we also have a responsibility to look out for one another, to get to know our neighbors, and to report any suspicious behavior to police dispatch,” Andersen said.

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