Police report reveals crime trends in Santa Cruz in 2021 – Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ – Crime trends in the city in 2021 included an increase in robberies and physical use of force by officers, while “harmful crime” citations and arrests typically associated with homelessness generally trend on the decline.
At the first Public Safety Committee since late June, Acting Santa Cruz Police Chief Bernie Escalante will deliver a high-level presentation on Monday night about crime trends in select cities over the past four years. Escalante’s report, available online ahead of the meeting, also includes reports on the department’s staffing levels and details on its uses of the BearCat tactical armored vehicle.
Former police chief Andy Mills left the department in October and Escalante, a veteran of the department as deputy chief, was named acting chief. No permanent leader has been publicly identified for this role. Escalante deferred a Sentinel request to interpret trends and causes in 2021 crime statistics until Monday’s presentation to the committee.
A review of available city crime data showed that many reported crime statistics were dropping in 2020 and/or 2021, potentially impacted by behavioral changes related to the coronavirus pandemic. Burglary and theft reports, for example, fell 27% and 30%, respectively, from 2018 to 2021. Meanwhile, robberies increased by almost 57% over the same period. Reported rapes fell from 35 in 2018 to 26 in 2021 – the lowest number in four years.
Citations for aggressive solicitation, intoxication, illegal camping, trespassing and driving on public property each fell to significant four-year lows in 2021, though offenses for being in city parks after hours are fell to 128 after a two-year lull.
Overall, the department received 88,822 calls for service in 2021, compared to a four-year average of 93,371 calls per year. Conversely, officers made 23,360 reports – a four-year high from its average of 19,333 reports collected.
Separately, the department capped a three-year decline in 2021 with 3,102 violation citations issued, down nearly 60% since 2018. Citations have declined across the city alongside a rapid conversion of city park rangers from Enforcement duties from downtown to police rangers to community police services officers for the past several years.
According to the police report, the department is authorized to employ 94 sworn officers, but has three vacancies. Of the active officers at the time of the report, 17 were in training at the police academy and nine were out for injury or on general leave. Two additional officers were participating in on-the-job training, leaving the department with 63 active sworn officers available.
The three-member Public Safety Committee, made up of appointed members of the Santa Cruz City Council, typically meets at least quarterly. During their last meeting, committee members provided feedback on several proposed ordinances in the works, including one relating to a ban on the assembly, disassembly or storage of bicycles and bicycle parts on public roads, and another prohibiting hypodermic needles in highly sensitive areas. The committee also discussed a possible future restorative justice pilot program concept.
In a poll conducted by senior city management analyst Sara De Leon, committee members listed several areas they hoped to focus on in the future, according to an agenda report. The main areas of concern included the definition of “public safety”, a quality of life ordinance, a supervision order, patrols on rail paths / open spaces – Safe Routes to School, shoplifting at the downtown, fentanyl test strips and bike shops and other thefts. The committee is also charged with an annual review of the report of the city’s police auditor.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO
What: Meeting of the Santa Cruz Public Safety Committee.
When: 5:30 p.m., Monday.
Where: virtually via Zoom with meeting ID 89242299056.
At issue: Future Committee Priorities, Crime Statistics 2021, “Criminal Justice Council Report 2021”. fire activities.
Participate: Call toll free 833-548-0276 or 833-548-0282 or 877-853-5247 or 888-788-0099. Meeting ID: 89242299056. Participant ID: #. *9 to “raise hand”, *6 to reactivate the telephone line.