The following is Chief Rick Braziel’s Department Update taken from the January 2011 issue of the Police Department’s newsletter“Community Connection.”
The quarterly newsletter is posted on the Department’s website at http://www.sacpd.org/stayinformed/connection/.
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I hope you all had safe and happy holidays. There is no doubt the last couple of years have been challenging due to unemployment, furloughs and foreclosures, and the status of government and private sector budgets at all levels. I was recently asked if I thought the crime rate would increase in response to these factors. Studies have suggested links between the economy and crime, with unemployment rates directly related to the incidence of property crime. Difficult times also lead to more domestic violence. While the newly unemployed don’t necessarily become criminals, in hard times those people already on the economic margins may increasingly turn to street markets which can include stolen goods. So, more than ever it’s important to keep your home and belongings safe, including your personal data.
In the coming year, there are indicators we want to watch so we can stay on top of any developing crime problems. We are seeing an upward trend of crime in Sacramento after double digit crime reductions in the last three years. We saw an increase in violent crime which we are addressing, and we are just beginning to see increases in property crimes. Sacramento was recently ranked #72 out of 400 large cities for crime in 2010 (CQ Press). Although we are not at the top of the list, that is much higher than we want to be.
When the City budget suffers, police staffing may drop. Sacramento anticipates a $30 million deficit next year if no unexpected negative changes occur. In the last five years, Sac PD’s number of budget authorized officers dropped from 792 to 733. While our actual sworn staffing (positions that are filled) has remained relatively stable during the last three years hovering around 700, it is well below this city’s need. This staffing stability was possible thanks to labor concessions, furloughs, and other cost cutting measures, but after using up such options, our staffing may yet suffer in the coming budget years.
Whether our staffing drops, remains stagnate or increases, I am committed to Sac PD continuing to be very smart in how we direct our resources by utilizing all the crime analysis, technology and deployment tools at our disposal, while we work with the community on crime prevention. For example, the Police Department initiated a strategy we call the Sacramento Safe Community Partnership, a data-driven approach modeled after Boston’s Ceasefire, designed to reduce homicides and gun-related street violence. The strategy includes focusing on youth and young adults who are the “drivers of violence,” and providing them with alternatives including counseling, mentoring, job training, and life skills. The goals are to reduce gun-related violence; strengthen employment prospects of young people at highest risk of violence; and, help these young people avoid further involvement in the criminal justice system.
I believe we can’t arrest away our problems. We must all encourage prevention efforts to keep kids out of trouble, especially now when jobs and opportunities for youth are limited. The Sacramento Police Athletic League was re-established last year and the Tahoe Park Rugby Team, a grassroots after school program run by our officers for youth from the Hiram Johnson area and its feeder to schools, was started, to name just a few positive alternatives. We remain committed to working with and for the community in 2011.