Merced Police Department takes steps to deal with spike in crime

January 25, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Chief Norm Andrade believes three main factors are to blame for the crime increase. He says despite the statistics, the city is safe.

The Merced Police Department is facing a challenge as it works to curb crime numbers from 2012.

Newly released statistics show the city reported 5356 violent crimes last year, a 25 percent increase from 2011.

Andrade said, "I know people want to know what's the reason why crime has gone up, and it's really kind of 3 fold."

Andrade says one factor is the still struggling economy. Another is a reduction in staffing over the past few years.

"We've lost a little over a fourth of our department, both sworn and non-sworn, so that has a definite impact on what's happening out in the street in the aspect that. We can't necessarily do a lot of the proactive things we'd like to do, so it's a lot of reaction."

The chief also believes prison realignment has played an indirect role in the increase by forcing jails to release certain inmates early to make room for those who would have previously served time in prison.

"So the drug addicts, the folks committing a lot of the thefts, property crimes, things of that nature, they're being forced right back out. So we have to re-arrest them or chase them because they keep recommitting the crimes."

Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin acknowledges more inmates are released early in the wake of AB-109, but he points to a new report from the center on juvenile and criminal justice. It says FBI statistics show realigning offenders is not connected with increases in crime.

Pazin said, "Quite frankly, if you look over the 40 year average the crime rate has been at its lowest EBB in 4 decades."

Pazin also says his department is working to minimize any impacts from early releases.

"Our ab109 team of deputies is very cautious who they let out, but they're also very aggressive in monitoring those persons that have taken advantage of GPS and electronic monitoring," Pazin said.

Chief Andrade is now hoping a grant could help him hire four more officers in the next year.

In the meantime his department is using technology, including this crime mapping program, to help officers focus on areas hit the hardest.

"I can assure you this community is safe. Crime is going up, but now's the time for the community to be more aware, let us know what's going on so we can better use our resources to keep them safe so they can enjoy a good quality of life," Pazin said.

Robberies increased the most in 201w by 44 percent.

Chief Andrade says both businesses and homeowners should consider installing surveillance cameras for security.


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