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Realignment impacting local crime
Robberies, burglaries up in Porterville in 2012
In 2012, Porterville saw a marked increase in robberies and burglaries, a slight uptick in auto thefts, and a spike in fatal collisions involving pedestrians, according to statistics released by the Porterville Police Department last week.
It appears to be a nationwide trend, as in the first six months of 2012 law enforcement agencies throughout the country reported a 2 percent increase in robberies and a 1.9 percent increase in property crimes, according to the latest FBI numbers.
In Porterville, robberies rose from 58 incidents in 2011 to 70 in 2012, and burglaries from 518 to 594.
Porterville Police Chief Chuck McMillan said many of the robberies reported were committed against persons and by repeat offenders and noted the department is currently trying to address a bout of daytime burglaries.
He said the state’s realignment law — passed in 2011 whereby low-level felony offenders and parole violators were diverted to county jail rather than state prison — played a significant role in the numbers.
“We’re arresting the same people over and over again for the same type of crimes; there’s really no teeth in it and it’s causing problems at the local law enforcement level,” he said, “I think realignment has a lot to do with it. Honestly, you can’t let these people out thinking they’re going to rehabilitate because they’re going to go back to the same lifestyle they’ve chosen.”
He said that while he has no control over the justice system as it relates to how much time these offenders spend in custody, the department will work hard to address these issues this year.
Auto thefts also rose slightly over 2011’s 10-year low, from 194 to 206 incidents, but remained well below the average of 243, the PPD’s year-end report states.
Unlike in previous years, in 2012 the PPD was not part of the Tulare County Regional Auto Theft Task Force, which could have also contributed to the rise in auto thefts, McMillan said.
The city also saw a slight increase in violent crime. Homicides went from two in 2011 to three in 2012 and rapes went from six to 11. Fatal traffic collisions doubled, from two in 2011 to four in 2012 with all four collisions involving pedestrians.
Not all was gloom and doom for the city last year.
Assaults, larceny, and thefts were down significantly. Drunken driving arrests and injury traffic accidents were also down.
For the sixth consecutive year since 2006, when the city experienced 780 documented incidents of graffiti, the city saw a sharp reduction in graffiti, from 159 incidents in 2011 to 109 in 2012.
“We’ve opted as a department and as a city that it’s not acceptable to spray paint our community,” McMillan said, adding that it’s the department’s policy to book juvenile offenders into Tulare County Juvenile Hall, to ensure parents make the more than 30-mile mile trip to Visalia.
The PPD’s Juvenile Diversion Program also proved rather successful last year. The program, established in 2010, is aimed at preventing juvenile delinquency by diverting first-time, non-violent offenders from the juvenile justice system.
Last year, nearly 400 juveniles were cited into the program, 203 of which were determined eligible to actually participate in the program. Those minors put in more than 3,400 hours of community service. McMillan said the program, headed by PPD Chaplain Steve Walker, had a 70 percent success rate in regard to juveniles who participate the program and don’t re-offend. There are issues, such as the increased burglaries and robberies, that the department will continue to address this year, McMillan said.
“We’re going to have to address that, and that means getting into the neighborhoods and getting people to call us on suspicious persons. I’ve preached it 100 times — you’ve got to be a good neighbor and look out for each other and that’s how we’re going to be successful.”