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Technology key factor impacting Claremont crime

Claremont assaults, thefts and related crimes are at a 25-year low.

Last year reported the lowest number of Part I crimes in the past quarter century, announced Sergeant Lori Davenport at the police commission meeting held late last week. Figures were calculated as part of an annual crime report submitted to the city by the Claremont Police Department. 

Part I crimes are comprised of violent crimes against persons (homicide, rape, robbery, assault) and crimes against property (burglary, theft, auto theft and arson). A total of 887 Part I crimes were reported last year, down from 932 in the previous year. An overall reduction in these crimes is just one of numerous areas of improvement for the city’s police department, according to Captain Jon Traber.

The Claremont Police Department’s low crime rates are in part due to successes seen throughout the region over the past several years as repeat offenders remain locked up, says Captain Traber.

“Assertive law enforcement actions such as the Three Strikes law have kept repeat offenders behind bars,” he said.

The Three Strikes law, which took effect in California in 1994, gives life in prison with the possibility of parole to those who have been convicted of the same serious criminal offense 2 or more times.

“That 5 percent is creating a majority of the crime,” Captain Traber explained of the region’s crimes.

In addition to a decrease in Part I crimes, the city has seen a drastic increase since 2009 in the recovery of stolen vehicles.  The increase is in part due to the purchase of an Automated License Plate Reader system obtained through grant money last year. The system allows police to read license plates as they enter into the city and quickly compare information in law enforcement databases for stolen vehicles, wanted persons, Amber Alerts and vehicles of interest, according to police.

“The cameras take a digital image that then goes through a stolen vehicle database and comes back with hits almost instantaneously,” Captain Traber explained.

Since the system went live in April, police have received nearly 20,000 hits related to stolen vehicles or wanted persons. Eighty stolen vehicles were recovered, whereas only 10 were recovered in 2009, according to Captain Traber. Seventy-five people have been arrested in direct result to the system, 40 of who were individuals driving stolen vehicles.

“We were able to find yet another warrant and stolen vehicle today,” Sgt. Davenport said. “The [ALPR] system really remains an important asset to our department.”

Despite overall Part I crime abatement, the city’s theft and burglary rates remain the highest area of crime in Claremont, accounting for nearly 68 percent of all Part I crimes last year. While Claremont has reported no homicides in 2011—in comparison to 1 homicide in 2010 and 2 in 2009—there were a reported 601 thefts and 207 burglaries.

Officers fear those numbers may rise as repeat offenders continue to be released from prison through the implementation of the Public Safety Realignment Bill. Passed in October, the bill will transfer up to 30,000 low-level offenders to county jails over the next 3 years.

“We haven’t seen the full effects of what could happen,” Captain Traber said. “Typically those types of individuals commit property crimes and that’s 90 percent of our crimes [in Claremont]. Over the next year or 2 our staff needs to be diligent in contacting and stopping suspicious persons and taking action.”

So far, despite significant reduction in staffing levels for the Claremont police, their commitment to serving the community quickly and effectively is evident in its successes throughout 2011, according to Frank Bedoya, chair of the Claremont Police Commission. Over the past year officers responded to 24,626 calls with an average response time less than 4 minutes.

“There has been a lot of questions as to how crime rates were going to be affected with the reduction in staff. I think we still see here an adequate response time to services,” Mr. Bedoya said. “It truly does show the remarkable work the department is doing for the city.”

In 2012, police will continue to focus on quick response times to reported suspicious activity and continue to foster an open-door policy with its residents.

“People feel comfortable reporting crime here because they know anything they report is going to be investigated and brought to a conclusion promptly,” Captain Traber said. “There is a commitment here between members of the community and the police department.”

—Beth Hartnett

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