Richmond police chief addresses uptick in crime, and whether Prop. 47 is a factor

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Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus speaks at a recent police swearing-in ceremony.

A statement by Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus:

Dear Community Members,

We are seeing some increases in crime during this first quarter of 2015, compared to the same period of 2014, so I wanted to reach out to everyone with the hope we can maximize how we work together to turn things around. Although the data so far is inexact, it looks like we are seeing a 9-10% increase in overall crime (both property and violent crimes) in Richmond. This is a difference in the direction we’ve been headed in over the past several years, so even if this increase is only reflective of a short time period, we need to pay attention to what’s going on to make sure we reverse this trend.

The reason for the increases are less than clear. Some people believe the implementation of Prop 47 (which switched many property and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors) is a factor, but given how new these changes are, as well as how little solid data we have, it’s hard to show a definitive link between the new laws and the crime increases.

One thing we do know is that the legal consequences for many types of theft (including vehicle theft) are frustratingly minimal. We find individuals we’ve arrested multiple times for stealing cars and committing other thefts back on the streets in literally weeks, despite being convicted or pleading guilty to these and other offenses. We certainly support community corrections efforts and the use of technology such as electronic monitoring (ankle bracelets) for many of these offenders, but the reality is that we are dealing with a lot of of the same offenders over and over again.

It is imperative that residents join us in stepping up our prevention and information-sharing efforts. We cannot over-emphasize the importance of establishing and reinvigorating Neighborhood Watch groups, as well as encouraging activities such as neighborhood walks, “meet and greet” events, and other strategies that unite neighbors with the common goal of looking out for one another.

Our neighborhood beat officers and supervisors, working with our Crime Prevention Manager Michelle Milam, mmilam@richmondpd.net, are ready and willing to work with residents to help bring people in a neighborhood or commercial area together. We also have an outstanding Crime Analysis Unit that can help provide up to date and relevant information to assist people in focusing on the right crime challenges at key times and locations.

We continue to struggle with our staffing levels, but it is still extremely important that residents CALL US (our Dispatch Center can be reached for emergencies by calling “9-1-1-“ or for less serious matters at 510-233-1214, then dial -0-) when they see suspicious or potentially criminal activity. It helps us if you provide your name and other information—and please let us know if you wish to be contacted at your home or if you’d prefer the officer call you. We’ll do our best to assure your confidentiality, if that’s your preference.

Programs like Operation Ceasefire and several other violence reduction strategies remain a top priority for us. We have several additional projects coming on-line for the summer geared towards reducing the number of shootings and other violent crimes in the community. There are ways you can become involved in Ceasefire (including regular community walks and conduct other important activities). If this is something you’re interested in, please contact Donnell Jones at donnell@ccisco.org.

We have shown that by teaming up, we can drive crime down. Let’s work together and make our community as safe as possible!

– Chief Chris Magnus

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