Serious crime jumped 22 percent last year in Modesto compared with 2011, and the culprits were spikes in auto theft, burglary and larceny.
The crime statistics are detailed in a report police will present Monday to the City Council's Safety & Communities Committee.
Police Chief Galen Carroll attributes the rise in serious offenses what law enforcement calls part-one crime to prison realignment, the 2011 state law that shifted nonviolent, nonserious and nonsexual offenders from the state's overcrowded prisons to county jails. Consequently, more jail inmates are being freed from custody before the conclusion of their imposed sentences; they are being released into the Alternative Work Program or home detention. There also is less supervision for inmates on parole.
"Because there is not a lot of jail space, they get kicked out," Carroll said. "It's become a very fast revolving door. We arrest them, and they are right back on the street."
Carroll said part-one crime has risen by double-digit percentages across the state, though it's up by only single digits nationwide.
In Modesto, auto thefts were up 32 percent; larceny which is the taking of property without force, such as shoplifting rose 28 percent; and burglaries jumped 21 percent.
Last year's 2,571 burglaries were the most the city has had in at least nine years. And residents have to go back to 2007 to find a year in which Modesto had more auto thefts than last year's 1,799.
Modesto had 20 homicides in 2012, up from the 14 in 2011 and the most since 2009, when there were 21. The 1,061 aggravated assaults last year were the most in at least nine years.
No. 1 focus: Officers on patrol
Carroll, who has been police chief for nearly two months, said he will talk with Safety & Communities Committee members Monday on what he wants to do to reduce crime.
"My biggest concern," he said, "is the number of officers on patrol. That is my No. 1 focus. A black-and-white is not a deterrent if you are not seeing them."
Modesto police have committed to having 100 officers assigned to patrol. But there are 13 vacancies, which reduce the number to 87. And that's not counting officers who are off because of vacation, injuries and other reasons.
The bottom line, Carroll said, is that at any given time, there can be as few as a dozen officers patrolling Modesto, a city of 36 square miles and about 200,000 residents.
Carroll said he plans to beef up the number of patrol officers but has not yet determined by how many. The Police Department is allocated 231 sworn officers, about a 20 percent decline from several years ago before budget cuts.
He said he will increase the ranks of patrol even if nothing comes of Mayor Garrad Marsh's proposal to put a public-safety tax on the November ballot.
Carroll said his other proposals include hiring a second crime analyst and acquiring crime mapping software. He said crime analysts are invaluable because they can pinpoint crime hot spots and uncover trends as they pore through police reports and other data.
He said he does not want to talk about his other proposals until he has briefed officers on them.
The department is working to fill the 13 vacancies. Four candidates are in the police academy and background checks are being conducted on several other candidates.
The Safety & Communities Committee meets Monday at 5 p.m. in Room 2005, second floor, of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.