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Is crime on the rise in Citrus Heights? Here’s what police data shows

Crime statistics showing comparisons between 2021 and 2022 in Citrus Heights were shown during a City Council meeting on April 13, 2023.

By Mike Hazlip—
Citrus Heights Police Chief Alex Turcotte this month released an annual report on crime in the city, showing a 4% drop in property crime and a 14% increase in violent crime, although he cautioned the statistics for 2022 with the prior year are not an “apples to apples” comparison.

“This would be the first year we’re transitioning from uniform crime reporting summary to a Uniform Crime Reporting National Incident-based Reporting System,” Turcotte said. “Basically what that means is for this one year we’re not exactly apples to apples on crime comparison.”

Turcotte noted the new reporting system counts up to 10 crimes in each incident rather than a single most serious crime, among other changes. The new system brings the department in line with other national crime reporting statistics, but “might just be a little off” and typically results in a 2.1% increase in the data, Turcotte said.

Despite the change in reporting, the police chief said Citrus Heights saw an overall drop of 1% in total crime in 2022, referring to the top eight categories of serious crime: homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.

Turcotte said the drop of 1% “doesn’t sound like a lot,” but called it “a tremendous feat, given all the challenges that we’ve had over this last year.” The rise in violent crime however is a significant concern for the department, Turcotte said, with plans to prioritize reducing those incidents in 2023.

The biggest jump in violent crime was in aggravated assaults, with 29% more cases in 2022. Turcotte said the total number of assaults is down, but the more severe category of aggravated assaults is up — meaning that “more weapons are being used and more injuries are happening.”

The chief also pointed out an increase in robberies for 2022 compared with 2021. The data shows nine more robberies in 2022, representing a 15 percent increase from 2021. He said this indicates a trend toward more violent crimes compared with previous years.

”With our robberies, what we found is in our current climate, a number of our shoplifts that were normal larcenies in the past have become more aggressive and elevated into robberies,” Turcotte said.

Last year saw one more homicide than 2021, for a total of 4 in 2022, according to the presentation. Turcotte said although each homicide is a tragedy, the increase of “one number here and there” does not represent a concerning trend.

A Sentinel review of annual crime reports dating back to 2014 shows homicides in Citrus Heights have hovered between 1-2 per year, with the exception of five homicides in 2015.

The only category of violent crime to see a drop in incidents last year was rape, which dropped by 52%, from 44 in 2021 down to 21 last year.

In property crimes, burglaries saw a 0% change from the prior year, with just one more burglary. Larceny saw a 5% drop, from 1,362 in 2021 down to 1,290 last year. Motor vehicle thefts were also down slightly, with 299 last year and 303 in 2021. Arson incidents remained unchanged, with 23 reported each year.

Turcotte also highlighted several other statistics from the year, noting the recovery of documents from over 75 potential victims of identity theft in what Turcotte called an identity theft “chop shop.”

Police also worked with the U.S. Postal Service to locate and seize 232 pounds of marijuana, over 13 pounds of methamphetamine, and 31 pounds of Fentanyl, which he said was “enough fentanyl to kill everybody in the county.”

There was an overall 3% decrease in vehicle collisions for 2022, Turcotte said, but three fatal collisions in 2022, compared with two in 2021. Collisions involving driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs was up 9%, and DUI arrests were also up 11%.

Turcotte said he expects those statistics to drop as the department brings its Motor Unit back up to speed after staff reductions in previous years.

Police also fielded a 20% increase in calls for service related to people experiencing homelessness, for a total of 3,445 calls in 2022.

The department continues to struggle with staffing issues, Turcotte said, with 18 vacancies at the beginning of 2022 that has now reduced to eight. Several other candidates are also in line for positions with the department, he said.

“Our retention and churn has still been a challenge, but we’re getting ahead of it and currently we have applicant names behind almost every one of our vacancies,” he said.

A new officer wellness program that is part of the Citrus Heights Police Foundation is another highlight Turcotte announced for 2022. The foundation works to improve morale among officers and their families through family events and staff appreciation events. The department is also working with vendors to offer nutritious meals to officers in a cost-neutral effort.

In addition to efforts to reduce violent crime, Turcotte said the department will focus on community engagement, officer retention, training, and equipment upgrades this year.

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