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Citrus Heights sees spike in burglaries, drop in violent crime

Citrus Heights crime
Crime data for Citrus Heights comparing Jan.-Aug. 2016 with Jan.-Aug. 2017. // Data source: CHPD

Sentinel staff report–
Latest crime data released by the Citrus Heights Police Department shows a sharp rise in burglaries in the city so far in 2017, compared to the same period last year. Data also shows an overall decrease in violent crimes, largely due to a drop in assaults as well as zero homicides in 2017.

Through August of this year, a total of 492 vehicle burglaries were reported in the city, up 47 percent compared to the same period last year. Residential and commercial burglaries also rose sharply, with 312 reported through August, compared with 227 during the same period last year — a 37 percent increase.

Violent crime in the city has fared better, with a 19 percent drop in assaults and a 100 percent drop in homicides. Reports of rape have tracked about the same as 2016, but robberies — defined as taking personal property by force — rose from 49 reports last year to 60 this year.

The rise in burglaries — defined as the entry of a home, room, or other building with the intent to commit a theft or felony — was cited in a mid-year crime update from Police Chief Ron Lawrence in a September article in REACH Out, a monthly publication for the city’s neighborhood associations. Lawrence also included several other statistics, including a drop in auto theft by 14 percent.

Learn more about the city’s 11 neighborhood associations: Neighborhood groups REACH out to connect Citrus Heights residents

In a phone interview with The Sentinel, Lawrence said a large number of burglaries in the city were attributed to a single suspect, Levi Pierce, who was arrested in February and is still in custody with bail set at $1 million. Lt. David Gutierrez later confirmed that 30 residential burglaries during January and February this year were attributed to Pierce.

Since being arrested, court records indicate that four of Pierce’s felony charges have been dismissed, but he still faces 22 other burglary-related felony charges, along with a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 19 of next year, while he sits in the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove.

From February: Police make arrest in series of Citrus Heights residential burglaries

Asked about other potential reasons for the increase in burglaries, Gutierrez said officers have seen “far too many unsecured cars and homes,” but he also blamed the increase in part on a 2014 ballot initiative that reclassified certain crimes as lower-level offenses.

“Although it is hard to quantify, we believe new legislation such as Proposition 47 has contributed to the increase because many prior felony crimes including heroin possession, cocaine possession, and methamphetamine possession were reduced to misdemeanors crimes,” said the lieutenant. “The offenders now have no motivation to seek the treatment they need, which has resulted in more drug-addicted individuals in the community.”

Asked what the department has done in response to the increased burglaries, Gutierrez said the department has continued monitoring crime trends and deploys extra resources to areas most impacted by crime. He said the department has also continued community involvement and outreach using social media and attending neighborhood association meetings.

Gutierrez also highlighted the department’s neighborhood watch coordinator, Larissa Wasilevsky, who provides resources and support for those interested in starting a watch program. CHPD also now has an app for Android and Apple devices, where users can report suspicious activity, submit crime tips, and connect with city services.

Prevention tips
Lt. Gutierrez said “a significant amount” of vehicle burglaries have involved unlocked vehicles, noting that of 72 vehicle burglaries reported in August, 15 were unlocked, 31 were locked, and in 26 cases the owner wasn’t sure if their vehicle was locked or unlocked. He also said “many” residential burglaries involved doors and windows being left unlocked or open.

The lieutenant offered several prevention tips, including locking car doors and windows when unoccupied, and always locking doors and windows when away from home or asleep — a simple tip that is often not followed. He also recommended installing security cameras and alarm systems, using motion sensor lighting around homes, and not leaving garage door openers in vehicles.

Additionally, police recommend using a timer on interior lights when on vacation or traveling and advise that residents “never announce on social media that you are not at home.” CHPD also offers a free “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design” analysis of homes and businesses that includes recommendations to make the building less desirable for criminals.

From March: 2016 Annual report: overall crime up 4% in Citrus Heights

Police also regularly request that community members contact law enforcement about suspicious activities and crimes, which helps police respond to incidents as well as identify crime trends and “hot spots.”

“We sometimes hear that people do not call the police because they do not want to bother us,” said Gutierrez. “Our response? Please call us anytime you see something suspicious. We rely on our many community partnerships for success.”

Updated crime data covering all of 2017 is anticipated to be released by police in March, when the police chief traditionally presents an annual crime report to the city council.

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