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By Chris Frost
Camarillo-- The Camarillo City Council received a report on the city's 2020 crime statistics and heard good news, March 24.
The Uniform Crime Statistics are a "reliable of crime data for law enforcement, local government, the public, media, and educators for research and planning purposes.
Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data is characterized as violent offenses, such as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and property offenses, like burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.
Police Chief Eric Tennessen updated the council and said over the past 30 years, property and violent crime have been decreasing.
"When we're talking about Uniform Crime Statistics, we always want to be careful when we're looking to compare our crime statistics to other jurisdictions nearby," he said. "Before about doing that, because there are a lot of factors that affect crime rates in cities, like social trends and economic conditions. We know these all impact local jurisdictions, but one thing we will see is the effect of impact because of the pandemic."
In 2020, the overall UCR Part 1 crime rate was flat, after a 5 percent decrease in 2019 and a 27 percent decrease in 2018. There were 12.47 crimes per 1,000 residents, compared to 12.52 in 2019.
The 2020 data shows that Camarillo is enjoying the lowest rate since it adopted the UCR.
"Our violent crimes were down to .75 crimes per thousand, compared to .83 last year," he said. "We saw a 9 percent decrease in violent crime. Property crime is 11.71 per thousand residents; it was 11.7 last year. We saw a slight uptick, four additional crimes this year."
In 2020, Camarillo responded to 17,874 calls for service, compared with 17,935 calls in 2019, so the numbers were flat.
"During the year, we made 3,358 arrests, compared to 3,075 last year," he said. "We saw a 9 percent increase. A lot of that is Covid-19 related impacts. We reduced our population in the jails to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks in the jails. One of the things we saw is that people who would normally be arrested and brought into the jail were instead issued a misdemeanor citation and released back onto the street. We believe that it had a lot to do with the increase in arrests."
Of the 3,358 arrests, Tennessen said 412 people were arrested 2 or more times, and there were 13 people arrested 10 or more times.
"We had one person who was arrested 27 different times last year," he said. "A lot of our arrests come from repeat offenders."
The five-year average shows 25 robberies, which he said is well below the average.
"We did identify a fairly common trend in robberies," he said. "With the outlet and big box stores, we have a lot of arrests. We have crimes that start as shoplifts that turn into robberies. That happens when somebody who is going to be shoplifting an item is confronted by a loss prevention person, and the thief uses force or fear to get away with the merchandise they're trying to steal. If a loss prevention person confronts them, and they shove the loss prevention person out of the way or make a verbal threat, then it becomes a robbery. We had three robbers involved with a drug deal that went bad."
The five-year average for rape is 16, which shows a drop from 22.
"Suspects were known to victims in all but one of the cases," he said. "Four of the cases showed that social media was being used to connect with the victim. That's not to say the person was lured in through social media; it might have been a consensual meet-up on social media, but that's where the relationship started."
The aggravated assault five-year average is 40, and the city stands at that total currently.
"We're quite low on our aggravated assault, which is a good thing," he said.
Property crimes were consistent year-over-year in all categories.
"We had 15 reports of crew-type wallet thefts in our stores," he said. "That's a crime where usually it's two-to-three people, and it involves making contact with a person who is inside a store, and they see a purse inside a shopping cart. One person will distract the person, and their co-conspirator will come up and steal the purse."
There were 11 package thefts, 15 bicycle thefts, and 10 mail thefts.
"On the package theft, we expected that to go up in 2020 because of the pandemic and all the people getting items delivered to their house instead of going out shopping," Tennessen said. "That didn't materialize because so many people were home during the day. We're happy to see that we only had 11 package thefts."
Organized retail thefts at the outlet stores continue being a problem, he said, and they've reviewed the issue before.
"We know the outlets are a popular shopping destination for people," he said. "Not just locals, people from out of town, it's also a popular feeding destination for would-be criminals. We had 77 organized retail shopping thefts in 2020. One of the new tools we have to combat this, the legislature passed an organized retail theft law that makes it a felony for people to act in conspiracy with one another to steal from multiple stores."
Camarillo saw shoplifts increase in 2020 over the 2018 numbers.
"We focused a two-person enforcement unit in the Ventura Boulevard corridor in the area of the outlet mall and big box stores, Home Depot and Target," he said. "The goal was for our two deputies to build relationships with the loss prevention people at each individual business. That makes the line of communication more rapid and easier. We've had a lot of success stories over the last year. In 2020, we had 50 fewer shoplifts compared to 2019."
He contributes that to the pandemic.
"The outlets were closed for quite some time," he said.
The next step, he said, is identifying the repeat offenders and target them proactively.
"When they're put on probation because of the crime, we're going to pay them a visit through probation searches to make sure they're complying with the terms of their probation or parole, to let them know that Camarillo is not the place they want to come to,"
With property offenses, the most significant increase occurred with motor vehicle thefts, 37 percent, which is evident through Ventura County.
"It's not just Camarillo experiencing this," he said. "It's all the agencies around the county, and 37 percent of the vehicles stolen in Camarillo were stolen because the owner left the keys in the car or hid the key in the car, and it was discovered."
The Camarillo Police Department reminds people through social media to remove valuables from their car at the end of the night and make sure it's locked.
"These are simple crime prevention techniques that will stop 37 percent of our vehicles from being stolen," he said. "The overwhelming majority of vehicles being stolen come from unlocked vehicles."
In 2020, the Camarillo Detective Bureau received 2067 cases, including 1,137 felony crimes and 777 misdemeanors.
Of those cases, 950 were closed, and 838 of them were closed by arrest. There were 111 search warrants authored and served.
"Many of the cases can be directly filed with the District Attorney's office, so they don't always require a lot of follow-ups," Tennessen said. "On a shoplift, our patrol members handle the entire investigation, so our detectives, although we count that as a case, they put together a case packet and file it with the District Attorney's office."