Police Chief Reports Crime Steady with Some Concerns; Council Supportive of Adding Cameras

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While a rash of robberies, two carjackings and a ring of catalytic converter thefts make for concerning headlines, the report delivered by Police Chief Darren Pytel on Tuesday was that crime was largely steady.

“I don’t have good news, I don’t have bad news,” the chief told council.  “Our numbers are really static… they haven’t really changed much in the last five years.”

Drilling down of course reveals some micro-trends and areas of concern.

Of note – violent crime is at its lowest level in over five years.  Homicide, rape, aggravated assault and even robbery are down.

One area of concern: larceny.  The chief reported that theft is at its highest level in over five years.  It is up for the second straight year – a 15 percent increase in 2019 over 2018.

Due to the sheer number of larceny crimes compared to all other categories, that is enough to push the overall Part I crime up six percent.

The chief did express concern about the nature of the robberies.  He noted that in the past, a lot of the robberies were strong arm robberies.  For instance, there was a string of brazen robberies at coffee shops where people were stealing lap tops.  But now they are increasingly seeing the use of weapons.  That is concerning because it has the potential to be dangerous.

He noted that these robberies are occurring due to gang activity from the region.

One-third of the victims of robberies are students and they tend to be young and female.

Both carjackings involved UC Davis students and he said that “the potential is great for violence, that causes alarm.”

Unlike in previous years – due to a significant effort by the department to increase recruiting – staffing is not a concern at the moment.  There are currently three vacancies, but they have two people about to graduate from the academy and thus Chief Pytel believes that the staffing vacancies might be down to just one by the end of 2019.

There is a continuing need to constantly recruit, however – because, as he pointed out, over the last 15 years they have been fully staffed for exactly one week over that time.

Much of the discussion by council turned to the issue of cameras.  One of the proposals was for a Remote Public Safety Camera System.

The staff report notes that the council has previously authorized the use of two of these “to monitor areas where crime has been reported, to surveil individuals suspected of committing crime, and to monitor both crowd size and crowd dynamics at City events in order to better deploy resources.”

The existing system is limited however, as they can only be used for short periods of time due to “their limited storage and power capacity.”

The report noted: “There have been community questions and feedback raised as to whether installing cameras at or near entrances/exits to Davis might serve to visibly deter certain criminal activity and/or, assist in the investigation, tracking of offenders, and prosecution efforts after the fact. Some communities have installed automated license plate reader technology to the camera systems, which furthers the ability to monitor stolen vehicles that enter or leave the City.”

The acquisition or use of additional cameras would require noticing and council approval as required by the Surveillance Technology Ordinance.  The council overall expressed interest in such an acquisition.

Mayor Brett Lee said, “I’m supportive of having cameras.  The key with cameras is the policy surrounding their use.  I’m very supportive of having cameras physically there.”

He said, “The idea here is not to catch someone from breaking into a car, it’s to discourage someone from (it) – it’s prevention.”

Councilmember Dan Carson said, “I’m supportive of going through our normal process of evaluating surveillance technology both to look at the cameras and I am interested in learning about the license plate readers.”

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs said, “The issue of increased use of cameras, I share the same concerns about the parameters around them, but I think personally… there’s a lot of concern (about crime).”

He said that the need for the increased usage of cameras in lieu of not having increased bodies was essential in their efforts to ensure public safety.

Councilmember Will Arnold noted that there will be a process for these items and he is open to discussing those details.

“I share many of the concerns that folks have about cameras and recognition technology, but my personal feeling is that license plates are not a private thing,” he said.  He saw the tracking of vehicles by law enforcement as the point of license plates, “I don’t see this as being an invasion of privacy, although there should be limits as to what is done with that information – crime prevention not cost recovery.”

During the general public comment, a few people raised concerns about the respite center and safety.  Will Arnold raised the point about crime involving homelessness and nuisance complaints, and “the numbers are there are more homeless people in town and folks are more aware of homeless individuals.”

Chief Pytel noted drunk in public and drug use were often related to homeless populations.  He also said they are seeing a lot more needles than have ever been seen before.

“Clearly there has been some changes in some of those areas,” he said.

Will Arnold asked about the issues surrounding the placement of the respite center.

When asked if there was an increased level of violence, Darren Pytel responded, “Not really.”

“Here’s the reality, we do have a crime set involving (the) homeless.  But for the most part they victimize each other,” he said.  “I have told everyone who will listen, one of my biggest concerns for many many years is how much they actually victimize each other.”

They steal from each other, beat each other, and the women are sexually assaulted continuously.

“I have expressed deep concern about the women who are living homeless and are out and about… and the things they are doing to each other,” he said.  “I think it’s one the tragedies occurring in the city right now.

“While I can completely understand some of the concerns from neighbors about the location of a respite center, and the type of presence that may bring, and the potential for some of the disorder and increases in crime… right now the crime is occurring all over town, it’s extremely difficult to police, and it’s extremely difficult to get people help, and to provide services when they’re all over.”

He said, while he’ll listen to neighbor concerns, “this is something I need to take a much stronger position on now, publicly.  I am an absolute supporter of the respite center concept and having designated areas in town that people can go (to) and have some sense of safety and order.”

Mayor Brett Lee summarized the council position on cameras: “We are supportive of cameras and we would like you to present us with the proposal for cameras at city parking lots.”  He also asked for “reasonable” use policies for their use.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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36 thoughts on “Police Chief Reports Crime Steady with Some Concerns; Council Supportive of Adding Cameras”

  1. Rik Keller

    The article states: “ Of note – violent crime is at its lowest level in over five years.  Homicide, rape, aggravated assault and even robbery are down.”

    This is not true. Based in the data table actually presented, the only category of those four that is at its lowest in 2019  over the last 5 years is aggravated assault, and even that category will likely not be the lowest by the end of the year.

    Whatever happened to questioning the statements of public officials? Isn’t that the job of a “watchdog” organization?

     

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      First of all, I view the job of analysis and commentary as separate from reporting on what happened and what was said.

      Second, I don’t agree with your analysis. If you look at the four violent crime categories – homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault – you have 101, 107, 97, 108 and 93 for this year which puts it at the lowest level in five years. Based on that, his statement looked accurate.

      1. Rik Keller

        Greenwald: You do not attribute the following statement to the Chief. Instead it is presented as your own. “ Of note – violent crime is at its lowest level in over five years. Homicide, rape, aggravated assault and even robbery are down.”

        What I said was exactly correct: “Based on the data table actually presented, the only category of those four that is at its lowest in 2019  over the last 5 years is aggravated assault, and even that category will likely not be the lowest by the end of the year.”

        On the other hand, your statement was misleading at best and based on only partial data for 2019 in any case. Why are you parroting the characterization of the data by public officials rather than looking at what the data really says?

        Your statement “If you look at the four violent crime categories – homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault – you have 101, 107, 97, 108 and 93 for this year for this year which puts it at the lowest level in five years” is silly. All your statement really says is that 11 months is less than 12 months.

        This year’s data is only year-to-date. While the cutoff date for the data is not listed in the Report, even if it runs all the way through the end of November, on a pro-rated basis 2019 would be in the middle of the other years listed for violent crime rates.

        1. Robert Canning

          Sometimes it is good to look at the trends in crime over time. Here is a graph I made from the Chief’s data that show the numbers over time. As you can see, burglary and motor vehicle theft are down quite a bit and the others (rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) are pretty much flat. My takeaway is that without the rise in larceny, crime is at a low point in Davis and the trend is downward. And this is true generally when one looks at the data the Chief presented which compares 2018 crime numbers for other cities in the region.

        2. Rik Keller

          Robert C: The Davis Police Department  has that data already charted on its website [click on the “crime charts’ option an the left]: https://dpd.crimegraphics.com/2013/default.aspx

          Again the 2019 data is just for the year-to-date and the cutoff date for the current data is not disclosed. At best, the data for 2019 only shows 11 of of the 12 months, so your conclusion that ” crime is at a low point in Davis and the trend is downward. ” is not true. The only thing that is true is that 11 months is less than 12 months. Additionally, since larceny is the category with the most crimes reported, it seems strange to exclude it, while at the same time combining stats for other violent and non-violent crimes

           

        3. Alan Miller

          PS.  The reason I say ‘if’ is I didn’t read the report, so I don’t know if the 2019 number were extrapolated to full year trend totals based on the data so far, and what statistical method was used if that was done.  If that wasn’t done and these are ‘to-date’, you can’t morally or scientifically say what the 2019 data total is, nor graph it claiming the data points are equivalent.

        4. Rik Keller

          Table 1 in the Staff Report PDF says “2019 (YTD)*” for the 2019 data column header. There is no other asterisk below the table that would indicate notes regarding the asterisk. Nor is there any detail provided on the cut-off date for 2019.

          But, hey, 11 months* are fewer than 12 months! Crime has gone down!**

           

          *or maybe 10? The table doesn’t say

          ** no it hasn’t.

        5. Craig Ross

          Actually what he said was the crime was stable which appears to be correct. Moreover even if you project it out evenly it’s not clear that violent crime is going to not be lower. Keep in mind that if it is true that a lot of victims of violent crime are students – students are going to be gone in a week and so December is probably a little violent crime month in Davis. You have made a mountain out of a mole hill and in the course of doing so hijacked the conversation off what I believe to be much more important points

        6. Rik Keller

          Robert Canning said “And this is true generally when one looks at the data the Chief presented which compares 2018 crime numbers for other cities in the region.”

          Yes, let’s look at that data. Based on the data in Table 2 of the Staff Report, on a per capita basis in the 8 cities listed, Davis had the 3rd highest rate of rape, and the highest rate of larceny/theft. In other categories, Davis was mid-pack.

        7. Rik Keller

          Note: the  “presentation” linked on the City Council agenda explains the asterisked 2019 figures as *YTD = November 13, 2019”.  (This was not noted with that date in the Staff Report.)

          I have no idea why anyone would draw conclusions about crime “declining” in 2019 from a dataset that doesn’t include the last 7 weeks of the year.

    2. Bill Marshall

      http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Agendas/20191202/10-Crime-Summary-Update-rev.pdf   [See page 6]

      Will leave to others to independently determine if Rik is truth-telling, misleading, or…,  when he posits…

      Based in the data table actually presented, the only category of those four that is at its lowest in 2019  over the last 5 years is aggravated assault, and even that category will likely not be the lowest by the end of the year.

      Please note the last phrase is speculative, and opinion.

      Whatever happened to questioning the statements of public officials? Isn’t that the job of a “watchdog” organization?

      An obvious swipe @VG (arguably, an organization)… but folk should understand that there are ‘watch-dogs’ prepared to question the veracity (or lack thereof) of postings of private individuals…

       

  2. Rik Keller

    There is a lot to unpack in the following  statement in the staff report provided to Council. Since the Vanguard supposedly addresses criminal justice system reform as one of its key concerns, why wasn’t this addressed at all in the article?

    “There has been a marginal increase in reported larceny (theft), which is reflective of recent anecdotal social media reporting that Davis is experiencing an increase in crime. The trend is also noticeable throughout California. However, property crime rates in Davis have always been high compared to neighboring jurisdictions and the recent trends were not necessarily unanticipated in light of significant shifts in the California criminal justice system from incarceration/punishment to community-based support, re-entry and treatment.”

    1. Rik Keller

      So the Police Chief states that crime is down except for larceny/theft which is up because of criminal justice reform, and the Vanguard is fine with that? OK. Just thought the Vanguard might take a more critical stance.

  3. Alan Miller

    whether installing cameras at or near entrances/exits to Davis might serve to visibly deter certain criminal activity . . .

    Installing cameras on the south end of Mace coming into Davis would allow us to arrest and convict those ‘outsiders’ who dare pass through our town trying to bypass I-80 as well as impound their cars for sale to pay for the system.  After awhile, word would get out.  Mace mess solved.

     

  4. Alan Miller

    When asked if there was an increased level of violence, Darren Pytel responded, “Not really.”

    I would have felt better with a straight, “No”.

  5. Alan Miller

    Chief Pytel noted drunk in public and drug use were often related to homeless populations.  He also said they are seeing a lot more needles than have ever been seen before . . . “Here’s the reality, we do have a crime set involving (the) homeless.  But for the most part they victimize each other,”

    Are we to believe this is like the gang code in The Wire:  “They’re not in the game”?  (A few of you will get the reference . . . if not, watch “The Wire” — 2nd best TV drama in history)

    Let me be clear:  I don’t buy it.   I won’t buy it.  Yes, they may victimize each other more than the general public, but the implication that there is no spillover because more of the crime is to ‘each other’, that’s just slippery BS. Doesn’t jibe with many stories I’ve heard of people who have had issues with so-called homeless persons, some of which were quite serious.  Not saying all homeless are criminals — that would be just as much a slippery BS statement.  But let’s be real about this.  “Here’s the reality . . . ” — WELL, KINDA SORTA.

      1. Alan Miller

        OK, I’m open to that.  But the “not really” response seems to belie that.  I haven’t watched the vid, and can’t claim to make an informed opinion based just on the article.

  6. Craig Ross

    Leaving aside Keller’s repeated attempts to attack Greenwald and staff… the more interesting stuff was Pytel’s comments on the respite center and the council decision on surveillance.  I agree wholeheartedly agree with Pytel’s view.  I don’t really understand the council’s faith in a use policy on surveillance.  A use policy is only as good as enforcement – and you can’t enforce what you don’t know.

    1. Bill Marshall

      I don’t really understand the council’s faith in a use policy on surveillance.  A use policy is only as good as enforcement – and you can’t enforce what you don’t know.

      Not clear what your specific concerns are… consider elaborating.

      As written in the article, I have no concerns about either the use policy or enforcement…  feel free to educate me as to why I should…

      1. Robert Canning

        Re. cameras, this is why we have a surveillance ordinance. And they will need to go through the process like other cameras have (e.g. the ones on the Davis Community Transit buses).

        1. Rik Keller

          The Police Chief’s statement  in the Staff Report that “recent trends were not necessarily unanticipated in light of significant shifts in the California criminal justice system from incarceration/punishment to community-based support, re-entry and treatment” directly referred to property crimes. And it it included a footnote that linked to this 2018 PPIC report “The Impact of Proposition 47 on Crime and Recidivism”

          https://www.ppic.org/wp-content/uploads/r_0618mbr.pdf

          Pytel did not mention why Prop 47 passed in Nov. 2014 would cause a significant bump in larceny thefts in Davis in 2019 rather than a few years earlier as documented across California in the PPIC report.

           

           

  7. Alan Miller

    property crime rates in Davis have always been high compared to neighboring jurisdictions and the recent trends were not necessarily unanticipated in light of significant shifts in the California criminal justice system from incarceration/punishment to community-based support, re-entry and treatment.”

    not necessarily unanticipated – ??? WOW !!!

    Given those three words basically mean the same thing as ‘expected’, is what he is saying is that these ‘shifts’ in the  . . . justice system’ were expected to increase crime, and we are now seeing that?  Not sure the specific ‘shifts’ he is referring to, but shouldn’t we ‘shift’ those particular ‘shifts’ back to the ‘pre-shifted’, if those ‘shifts’ are increasing crime?

     

  8. Robert Canning

    Since I can’t respond directly below RK’s verbal finger-wagging about my statements let me do it here.

    First, thanks for the link to the DPD’s website with good graphics. Second, let me add (as the police chief did last night) the Year-to-Date caveat for the 2019 statistics. Third, I stand by my statement that crime is at a low point and the trend is downward. I didn’t specify that it had to be at the year’s end. Finally, I should have noted that the data was for violent crime. Larceny is not considered a violent crime.

    1. Rik Keller

      Robert Canning said ” I didn’t specify that it had to be at the year’s end.” What?  The 2019 data is incomplete. It is therefore silly to state that crime is at a “low point.” It hasn’t been fully tabulated for 2019 yet (which should be obvious to even the casual observer considering the year isn’t over yet)

      You also wrongly conflated violent crimes and non-violent crimes (burglary and vehicle theft) in your summary stats, while excluding the largest category of all crimes: larceny.

      As I stated earlier, and as the data shows “Based on the data table actually presented, the only category of those four [violent crimes] that is at its lowest in 2019 over the last 5 years is aggravated assault, and even that category will likely not be the lowest by the end of the year.”

      Contrast that with Greenwald’s false statement that “Of note – violent crime is at its lowest level in over five years.  Homicide, rape, aggravated assault and even robbery are down.” 

       

       

       

       

       

       

  9. Robert Canning

    Again, I can’t respond directly to RK’s comments re. comparisons to other cities.  When one takes all eight crimes, calculates the rates and ranks the cities, Davis’ average rank is 4.25. Which, as Rik says, is “mid-pack.”

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