South Lake Tahoe crime rates drop

Brian UhlerBy Isaac Brambila
ibrambila@tahoedailytribune.com

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — A 2014 South Lake Tahoe Police Department (SLTPD) crime report reflected that crime in the city dropped in comparison to 2013.

According to the report, property crimes fell by nearly 12 percent, while violent crime dropped by 3.4 percent.

The drop in crime is a reflection of the community and several other factors, SLTPD Chief Brian Uhler said Monday.

Though Uhler didn’t take credit on behalf of the department for the decrease, he said the department did do its part.

“It is important to recognize that crime rates are heavily influenced by many factors (such as overall economy, demographic change, etc.),” Uhler stated in a press release.

The statistics, in general, were positive, but some types of crimes did see increases.

The most significant drop was seen in property crimes, where, according to the report, the decline was across the board. Burglaries dropped from 171 in 2013 to 147 in 2014, larceny numbers fell from 368 to 332 and motor vehicle thefts dropped from 46 to 37.

To achieve those drops, the police department drew its strategy after noticing that a disproportionate number of the crimes were being committed by a small amount of people, Uhler said. After noticing that trend, they decided to keep track of habitual and repeat offenders as well as drug related crime. The idea was to stay close to those types of offenders to act quickly when they committed a crime to prevent them from committing crimes in the future, as well as to keep attention on them so they don’t return to criminal activity.

As a result of the strategy, the department made 67 felony drug arrests, 24 arrests related to illegal marijuana grows and arrested 56 habitual offenders.

It is common that people who abuse drugs, in general, also usually commit a disproportionate amount of crime compared to the rest of the population, Uhler said. Those arrests likely prevented further crimes from happening.

Regarding violent crime, Uhler said the approach is different than with property crime. He said there is some spillover within the usual offenders of the two types of crime – drug, habitual and repeat offenders – but that the strategy to focus on those types of offenders is most effective with property crime.

Though there was still a drop in violent crime, the decline was less significant than in property crime.

The number of homicides in South Lake Tahoe fell from three in 2013 to zero in 2014, as did the number of aggravated assaults, which went from 89 to 77. The drop in crime, however, did not extend to forcible rapes and robberies. Forcible rapes saw a hike from 8 to 14, while robberies increased from 16 to 21.

Uhler said it is more challenging to have an effect on violent crime than on property crime. It is harder to predict.

“Officers can’t go and patrol inside someone’s home,” he said.

Still, the effort is being placed on combating violent crime. Currently, most investigative work done by the department is related to violent crime. Detectives work mostly on investigating violent crimes, while patrol officers usually investigate property crime.

However, for now, the strategy to fight crime will likely remain the same, with some adjustments.

The department is in the process of developing and increasing its investigative capacity. They also plan to further develop the working relationship with the probation department to bolster the focus on repeat, habitual and drug offenders.

For 2015, a point of focus will be the introduction of Proposition 47, which was voted into law last November and focuses on reducing punishments for certain non-violent offenders in an attempt to reduce prison and jail populations. Though it is still early to tell what the impact will be, Uhler said that the next year or two will likely see an increase on some crimes, and that the department will have to adjust to those changes.

Additionally, Uhler insisted that crime reduction is a result of a collaborative effort between the police department and the community.

He took the opportunity to remind people to be diligent about safeguarding their property and pay extra attention to locking up things and keeping things secure.

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