For the first three months of this year the crime rate in Turlock was steadily creeping upwards, due in large part to more violent offenders on the street, said Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson.
Between Jan. 1 to March 31, the Turlock Police Department recorded a 10 percent increase in Part 1 crimes compared to the previous year. Jackson pointed out that as of the end of May, the crime rate was now only 3 percent higher than last year.
The first quarter saw a 100 percent increase in homicide because there was one homicide during the time frame compared to zero in the same time frame in 2013. Similarly, six rapes were reported between January and March 2014, accounting for a 100 percent increase from 2013, when three rapes were reported during that time frame.
The more dramatic increases have been in the number of robberies and aggravated assaults reported. There were 33 robberies reported in the first quarter, compared to 19 in the first quarter of 2013, making for a 74 percent increase. The department took 79 reports of aggravated assaults in the first quarter, which is an increase of 23 percent from the 64 reported in 2013.
Larcenies were also a major factor in driving up the crime rate for the first quarter. The department recorded a 36 percent increase in larcenies, as the number of reports jumped from 349 in the first quarter of 2013 to 473 this year.
The rate of burglaries was down by 5 percent in the first quarter and vehicle thefts fell by 48 percent.
Jackson said the rise in the crime rate is from several factors, including a general increase in crimes being reported, staffing shortages at the police department, and the continued effects from the prison realignment bill AB 109.
The department has been dealing with an ongoing shortage of personnel, as some officers have departed for other agencies and others have been out on extended medical leaves. For the first quarter of the year the department was authorized for 74 sworn officer positions, but had only 69 filled. Just recently the department swore in one new officer and Jackson says they have a few candidates getting ready to start academy training, as well as one or two individuals interested in transferring to Turlock from other law enforcement agencies. The department has also shifted some personnel to maintain the staffing levels needed for patrol, Jackson said.
Jackson said the department is seeing the impacts of AB 109 on an almost daily basis and it is reflected in the crime rate. Signed into law in 2011, AB 109 altered the state’s responsibility of certain felons as a means to lessen the overcrowding on California’s prisons. It transfers custodial duties of non-violent, non-serious, and non-sex offenders to the county level. It also calls for more home detention programs for low level offenders and day for day credits. It does not transfer prison inmates to the county, but it has caused an increase of inmates at the county level. The overcrowding issue has allowed some convicts to spend little to no time in jail, which Jackson said has a correlation to the crime rate in Turlock.
“The time they are spending in custody has dramatically dropped,” Jackson said. “The impact of AB 109 on the local level is that we potentially have more violent offenders on our streets.”
The department is touting several crime prevention programs and tips as one method to help decrease the crime rate. They recently joined the Nextdoor program, which is a social media platform that allows for neighbors to connect with each other and keep each other informed on neighborhood happenings. The department is also gearing up for the National Night Out event, and promoting some common sense tips to help avoid becoming a victim of opportunistic criminals.