By Fatima Perez
DAVIS, CA – On Thursday December 9, the Davis Chamber of Commerce held a virtual information session and crime update with Davis Police Department Chief of Police Darren Pytel.
Chief Pytel presented various crimes that the city is currently facing: shoplifting, catalytic converter theft, vehicle theft, vehicle petty thefts (breaking into cars and stealing personal belongings), and vandalism.
Shoplifting has become of great concern to the police department due to organized theft where they are using the “smash and grab” method. This involves individuals raiding the business with trash bags and filling them with merchandise and running out. On Thursday December 9, individuals raided a local CVS using this shoplifting method. Pytel claimed this idea of shoplifting has become more “popular” in Davis recently.
Catalytic converter thefts have all been reported more frequently though Pytel did not indicate if the rate of thefts had gone up or if they were just being reported more.
Chief Pytel stated that public “antisocial” behavior is a recurring theme in Davis. According to him, individuals stand outside of businesses and disturb customers. He did not mention why he considered that a crime. He went on to directly label homeless people in Davis as the problem. He said that the homeless community has been reported to conduct this type of behavior allegedly due to drug use. He stated, “The problem with methamphetamine, it wires people and keeps them up and they are the ones doing the burglary and the thefts … trying to get stuff to sell to get the drugs.” Pytel did not cite any sources for this claim. He also did not talk about what the City is doing to address drug addiction in the unhoused folks in Davis beyond criminalizing them which Human Rights Watch called a “disastrous toll.”
Pytel also talked about Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) which focuses on changing physical environments to try to reduce crime. Pytel did not cite statistics as to the effectiveness of a program like this. Research findings have been mixed at best.
The City of Davis has also partnered with Bike Index, a bike registry, to reduce the rates of stolen bikes. To participate in the Bike Index, one has to provide serial numbers, proof of ownership and a description of their bike. The database releases a post with bike
description and serial numbers when one is reported stolen or found.
Cory Koehler, a representative from the Chamber of Commerce, conducted a Q&A session after Chief Pytel provided the crime update.
A business member wanted to know when talking to small business owners, “What do you say to retailers? Should they be doing more? What can they do with this type of situation?” because many small businesses do not have set store policies on theft. Chief Pytel strongly recommended not confronting the shoplifter because it can be dangerous. He said the important thing to do in these situations is to report it to the police department.
The next question was from a business owner who asked, “Is there any additional funding that the police department might get next year for additional officers or anything else related to police activity?”
Chief Pytel stated, “Back in 2020 for COVID when things first hit, the City had to make some pretty difficult decisions and make some cuts…at the time I had some vacant positions and the police department hit was about $1.1 million.” Due to this they had to cut “a record specialist, a dispatcher, a police corporal and two police officers.”
Pytel claimed the sworn positions were frozen even though City Council said the positions were not in the budget at all at a City Council budget meeting in June of this year. He also did not clarify that the police department gets 30% of the city’s general fund. The long term budget from the City Council budget meeting in June also does not indicate a large budget cut for the police.