Crime trends in this city have, for the most part, been continuing on an upward trend, much as they’ve been doing over most of the rest of the region in recent months.
A bright spot amidst all that, police Chief Jeremy Bowers said Monday night, has been the city’s Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) camera system that directly resulted in 23 arrests and the recovery of 52 stolen or otherwise wanted vehicles in the first three quarters of 2023.
“They’ve been a very good tool for us,” Bowers said Monday night as part of his quarterly report to the City Council.
Crime incident numbers in several notable categories have gone up significantly in 2023, taking into account the first three quarters of the year. A few examples: 28 assaults for the first nine months of 2023, compared to 10 the first nine months of 2022 and seven the first nine months of 2021; and there were 62 motor vehicle thefts recorded through September of this year, up from 49 in 2022.
One statistic the department started tracking in 2020 — “failure to yield”; i.e., the frequency of suspects fleeing in vehicles from vehicle stop attempts by officers, has increased dramatically. The table below from the quarterly crime report reflects the number of failures to yield in the first three quarters over the last three years:
Other numbers dropped in the first nine months of 2023 over the first nine months of 2022. Thirty-nine reported burglaries in the first nine months of 2023 is three fewer than in 2022, and 268 incidents of larceny/theft this year, down from 321 in 2022, Bowers said.
Whatever the numbers show for specific crimes, a number of incidents over the past several months have helped generate concern about crime fighting in Piedmont. The latest incident is a Nov. 1 armed robbery in which the suspects robbed the victim at gunpoint in the victim’s own driveway at Monticello Avenue and Park Way. Police believe the victim was followed home and then robbed.
Other recent crimes reported in Piedmont include a Sept. 10 carjacking on Grand Avenue (for which a suspect has been identified), a strong arm robbery in the Community Center parking lot on Sept. 13 (two arrests have been made there, Bowers said); and the Sept. 5 armed robbery in the 200 block of Estates Drive resulting in the loss of construction tools.
Earlier this year, both at a City Council meeting and a subsequent Town Hall meeting, Bowers presented a plan to address Piedmont’s crime issues, which includes full departmental staffing (which has been achieved); planning a new dispatch center and funding a new dispatch position; continued development of both the Public Safety Camera Program and the separate ALPR camera network and related technology, and to identify additional ALPR locations; and converting two Piedmont animal control officer positions into two police community service officers.
The department hopes that a new dispatcher will begin training in January, Bowers said, and said that the planned expansion of Piedmont’s dispatch center will take approximately 8 to 10 months to complete.
City Councilwoman Betsy Smegal Andersen asked Bowers whether he crafted his multi-point plan to address Piedmont crime with city budget constraints in mind. Bowers described the plan as a “holistic view that takes into account all the challenges.”
“We know we’re challenged, dealing with a lot of stuff as are many cities,” Bowers said Monday night. “But we’ve got to plan for how to deal with it.”
Mayor Jen Cavenaugh asked Bowers whether a five-year plan for improving traffic/pedestrian safety, particularly as it applies to school children who must cross Oakland Avenue, could be developed, and Bowers consented.
Contact Sam Richards at email@example.com