An above-average rate of violent and property crimes, a disturbing trend of youth offenders and crime driven by gangs were among the findings of a 10-year analysis of crime in Modesto, released by the Police Department on Thursday.
The 47-page report is a benchmark of sorts to help residents and the department better understand how crime has evolved and provide a perspective to develop future public safety strategies, Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll said.
“As a newcomer to the Police Department, I wanted to get a historical perspective on crime in our city to help see exactly what our challenges are and where we as a city stand as compared to the rest of California,” he said.
Carroll started his job in January and work on the report began three months later, analyzing data from 2002 to 2011.
Modesto consistently ranked higher than California averages in nearly every major crime. The report does not compare Modesto to other San Joaquin Valley cities.
From 2002 to 2006, the burglary rate in Modesto was 27percent higher than the state average. The disparity grew in the following years, ending in 2011 at 74 percent, according to the report.
Larceny is the primary factor behind Modesto’s high property crime numbers. It’s significantly higher than the state rate but the margin has narrowed over the years, dropping by 38.2 percent from 2002 to 2011. However, a sharp increase of 27 percent was seen in 2012. At its height in 2004, more than 9,600 people were victims of larceny, more than double California’s per capita average.
Stanislaus County year after year has made the National Insurance Bureau’s list of top cities per capita for car theft. Stanislaus County was No.1 in 2012, after a 23.9 percent reduction in the crime since 2002.
The bright side when considering all property crimes is that the likelihood of being a victim of one has decreased. One in 16 people were victims of property crime in 2002 in Modesto and 1 in 25 in California, compared with 1 in 23 in Modesto and 1 in 39 statewide in 2011.
However, the likelihood of become a victim of violent crime has increased, according to the report.
After a spike in 2003, Modesto maintained a fairly consistent rate of violent crime until 2012, when it spiked again, according to the report. During the same time period, California’s violent crime decreased by 30.7 percent and violent crime nationally was down 21.9 percent.
Trends in violent crimes show a correlation with gang affiliation, and an alarming number of the crimes were committed by youths.
Gangs contributed to more than half of the homicides in 2011. Of the 18 people arrested on suspicion of murder that year, five were under the age of 18 and eight were 18 to 24 years old.
That year, the probability of becoming a victim of violent crime in the city was two-thirds higher than in California, according the report.
Carroll points out in the report that many factors contribute to the high crime rate, including poverty, drug abuse, unemployment and low education levels, so there is not one solution to the problem.
He hopes to release a report every year, using the 10-year report as a basis for future reports to keep a longer-term perspective on crime.
He said the report has nothing to do with Measure X, the one-cent sales tax Modesto officials placed on the November ballot. Half of the tax is intended for public safety with the rest earmarked for roads, parks and recreation, and other purposes.
“My intention for the report was to give it to the community and use it to help in making decisions in our department,” he said.
Policies, procedures and programs implemented this year include predictive policing software, which uses algorithms to determine the locations of future crime so resources can be deployed to those areas beforehand; crime view software to assist crime analysts in identifying crime patterns and who is committing crimes; and volunteer patrols.
The Police Department expects to roll out an armored car equipped with cameras and license plate readers soon. The car will be parked in problem neighborhoods, where its license plate readers – which can record up to 1,000 plates per minute – will keep track of who is coming and going.