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Crime decreased city-wide, budget report as expected

Crime in Claremont has decreased by about three percent, according to new data shared by the Claremont Police Department.

Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen presented the new part 1 crime data to the council during last week’s meeting. Part 1 crime includes murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft, auto theft and arson.

Overall, there were 989 part 1 crimes committed in Claremont in 2018, compared to 1,018 reported in 2017. This decrease has been following a trend, the chief says—ever since a 17 percent increase in crime in 2015, the numbers have fallen by four percent ever since.

“This reflects three consecutive years with a decrease in overall part 1 crimes,” Chief Vander Veen said.

Going into the data, there were 59 crimes against persons in 2018, compared to 74 in 2017—a 20 percent decrease. Among those numbers, there were 19 robberies in 2018, 31 assaults and eight rapes in 2018 compared to nine in 2017.

There was one murder in Claremont in 2018, the first in the city since 2015. Chief Vander Veen took a moment to remember the victim, Leslie Pray, during her presentation to the council. Ms. Pray was allegedly intentionally struck and killed by a driver while she was riding her bicycle on Mills Avenue on November 3.

The driver, Sandra Wicksted, has been charged with murder and is scheduled to for a court appearance on April 3.

Property crimes made up the bulk of crimes committed in Claremont, and in 2018 this figure went down by just over a percentage point—930 in 2018 compared to 944 in 2017, a 1.5 percent decrease.

Burglaries were down by 59, with 279 in 2017 versus 220 in 2018.

Thefts saw the largest increase between 2017 and 2018; there were 54 more thefts last year. This is mainly due to an uptick in bike thefts at the Colleges; there were 104 within the campuses in 2018, compared to 72 in 2017. Overall thefts at the Colleges increased by 27 percent in 2018, 65 percent of which were stolen skateboards and longboards. Bike thefts in the city itself were down from 41 in 2017 to 31 in last year.

Residential burglaries are down by roughly 15 percent in 2018—from 168 in 2017 to 143 in 2018. Overall, the chief said, there has been a 28 percent decrease in home burglaries since 2016.

Commercial burglaries experienced a 31 percent decrease in 2018, the first such decrease in four years, the chief said.

Even Extra Space Storage, the business on Arrow Highway that experienced 21 burglaries alone in 2017, only suffered seven burglaries in all of 2018, data shows.

While there was a slight decrease in auto burglaries at the Evey Canyon turnout in 2018—28 compared to 31 in 2017—the chief said it is still an area of concern. She also said about 30 percent of those thefts were solved, with eight people arrested.

Budget as planned, so far

The city’s finances are as expected, according to Finance Director Adam Pirrie during his mid-year budget presentation for 2018-2019.

Last year, the city adopted a budget including $50.5 million in revenues and transfers in, which was adjusted to $63.1 million after accounting for grants and project funds for Foothill Boulevard and other projects, Mr. Pirrie said.

Through the end of 2018, about 29 percent in revenues and transfers in have been received, compared to about 37 percent at this time last year. This is normal, Mr. Pirrie said, noting that most of the activity happens during the second half of the fiscal year.

On the expenditures side, roughly 33 percent of the adjusted $72.8 million budget have been spent, compared with 47 percent this time last year. Moving to the general fund, 32.5 percent of the $26.5 million in budgeted revenues has been received so far, Mr. Pirrie said, roughly a percentage point fewer compared to last year.

Each source of revenue in the general fund has its own budgeted amount, including property taxes. To date, $2.1 million in property taxes has been received from the county, representing 31.5 percent of its overall budget, the city said. Sales tax (35.3 percent of $4.8 million), utility user taxes (42.7 percent of $4.43 million) transient occupancy tax (42 percent of $1.4 million) and service charges (49.5 percent of $1.3 million), make up the remaining revenue.

The city typically passes two-year budgets, but settled on a one-year budget in 2018 in anticipation of a $1 million structural deficit this year. A $1.8 million projected deficit is anticipated for 2021-2022. The city will dive into the 2019-2020 budget later this year.

Just over half the budgeted general fund—$13.5 million of the projected $26.2 million—has been spent, compared to $16 million last year.

Last year’s revenues were about $166,000 higher at this point in the process, Mr. Pirrie said, noting that money from the UUT and traffic fines were skewing lower than usual this year.

Councilmember Ed Reece asked if the downward trend of UUT revenues is going to be constant. Mr. Pirrie said it depends on the utility—this year, for example, water usage is down because of a rainy winter. Telephone usage is another utility that has seen a downturn, he said.

Mr. Reece was concerned that the city could be caught unaware if a utility stops generating revenue without anything else put in its place.

“I don’t want to find ourselves at a revenue loss and go, ‘Oh my gosh, we need to put something in place,’ but we don’t realize that revenue for years to come,” he said.

Mr. Pirrie said the Future Financial Opportunities Committee is aware of expected budget shortfalls over the next five years, and is working on new and expanded revenues to bring to the council at a later date.

The next council meeting is March 12.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com