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Lathrop chief says street talk is wrong as crime is down

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POSTED December 24, 2012 12:40 a.m.

LATHROP – Ask anybody on the street and they’re likely to tell you that crime is on the rise.

But as Lathrop Police Services Chief Danielle Hohe pointed out during last week’s meeting of the Lathrop City Council, the numbers over the course of the last 11 months – and even further back in some cases – indicate otherwise.

In a presentation born out of the 2-by-2 meetings held between the city and Lathrop Police, Hohe addressed the commonly-held belief that crime across the board has become a major issue in the community and the department has been too overwhelmed to control it.

Even though the 22 sworn officers – 17 of which actively patrol the streets in two distinct shifts – still falls below the FBI recommendation of 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents, crime in every major category has fallen in the first 11 months of 2012.

And when crime segments are broken up into violent and property crime segments the numbers are stark.

According to Hohe, violent crime – homicide, rape, robbery and assault – is down over 14 percent in the first 11 months of this year when compared to 2011. Property crimes like burglary and auto theft are down over 7 percent when compared during the same time period.

Lathrop has seen a downward trend in gang crime over the last five years, Hohe said, and when Lathrop is compared to neighboring cities – even on a per capita basis for an “apples to apples comparison” – the community doesn’t lead in any of the major categories and actually comes in on the low side.

So far this year Lathrop Police have made 444 arrests – 90 of which were for driving under the influence. They have conducted 535 field interviews, and wrote 113 tickets during a distracted driving enforcement period – something that Hohe said was especially important because of the inherent danger that comes with texting while behind the wheel.

It’s a combination of enforcement as well as programs like DARE, Neighborhood Watch, the Junior Police Academy and Citizens Police Academy and Every 15 Minutes, Hohe said, that helps reinforce the community policing model and allows citizens to get involved with the process.

“I think that it works because we don’t focus just on apprehension but also on prevention and education,” she said. “Focusing solely on apprehension is treating the symptom and not the problem. This addresses those issues through intervention but also through the education of our citizens – it encourages their involvement.

“Everybody likes to have a voice. It helps us help them.”

Keeping that trend going, Hohe said, will be easier if her vision for the future of the department were to be realized sooner rather than later.

Initially she’d like to see the five sworn position that were eliminated due to budget cuts hired back – allowing for a pair of officers to focus on gang issues and other street crimes in the community. An additional school resource officer would also be a part of that grouping, as would an administrative sergeant and a detective – a position that was eliminated earlier this year due to budget constraints.

A second phase of hiring, she said, would include an additional motorcycle officer, the launching of a cadet program and the reinstatement of the community prosecutor – the final piece that she says will complete the community oriented policing model.

For the next year Hohe says that they’ll continue the community outreach and education programs already in place.

“They’ve worked well and we’re going to bring all of those back,” she said. “I think that they’re important for the community.”

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