Pleasanton crime drops for 2009
Police Chief Michael Fraser credits a return to the basics.
A new report from the Pleasanton Police department shows some of the best numbers in years for both major and minor crimes. Major crimes were at the lowest rate in 22 years.
Also more major crimes were solved last year. Serious crimes included rape, arson, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. At 34 percent, Pleasanton police had the highest clearance rate in 10 years - a 4 percent increase over 2008 - and one of the highest clearance rates in the state. Cities in California on average solve 22 percent of cases.
Chief Michael Fraser said when he was appointed to the top job in 2007, one of his visions was getting back to the basics.
"Years ago, when I first started, we had a real strong focus on proactive law enforcement. As times changed, not just Pleasanton, but law enforcement in general changed to a community-oriented policing philosophy," Fraser said, "we focused on programs and kind of started to lose our focus on basic police work."
Fraser said he still supports the concepts of community policing, which involves creating partnerships with businesses and community groups and de-specialization of officers, among other things. He said he wanted his department to do both: community policing and a new focus on traditional police work.
"We needed to come back to a balance so our officers understood that it wasn't all about shaking hands and answering questions. It was putting bad guys in jail," he said.
For Fraser, back to the basics means traffic stops where an officer doesn't just issue a ticket and walk away.
"Looking a little deeper, taking the opportunity to ask questions, and having more of a conversation with an individual also gives us an opportunity to identify other things that might be going on, such as symptoms of drug intoxication or alcohol intoxication, nervous twitches, taking the time to look in the back seat," Fraser said.
The numbers bear him out. In 2009, Pleasanton police made 296 arrests for driving under the influence, including five felony DUIs. That's more than any other time in the last five years.
Fraser said back to the basics also means spending more time on patrol in Pleasanton neighborhoods.
"Daytime burglaries happen in the daytime, they usually happen in homes. Our units will get in residential areas during the day and take a look around," Fraser said.
Police are on the scene more quickly, too: Response time for emergencies was 18 seconds faster than in 2008, and 22 seconds faster for non-emergencies. Police also called in nearly 39,000 crimes on their own, more than they have in recent years.
Those factors may explain the rise in arrests for public drunkenness - 298 in 2009, again, the most in at least five years - and a drop in burglaries, down from 262 in 2005 to 136, a decline over the last five years.
Pleasanton crime statistics compare favorably to the statistics in Dublin, which has a little more than half Pleasanton's population.
Pleasanton had fewer homicides, rapes, aggravated assaults, robberies and burglaries than Dublin, although it did have more larcenies, motor vehicle thefts and arsons. Part of the reason for the spike in larcenies - 1,059 - is thefts at Stoneridge Mall, which accounts for 28 percent of all larcenies in the city.
Fraser says it's all a balancing act.
"I think that paying attention certainly has helped lower the crime rate (along with) partnerships that we've developed with our community and their willingness to call when they feel that something isn't quite right," he said. "It kind of goes back to the education process and the outreach programs. Telling them it's OK to call us if they see a suspicious person in the neighborhood allows us to potentially stop a crime before it happens."
Still, Fraser said he's pleased with the performance of his officers.
"I'm very proud of the men and women in of this department and what they've done in this community."