Measuring Crime in Ukiah
You may have read that the Ukiah City Council and the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) recently conducted an in-depth department review, and adopted new measurements for UPD’s performance.
These performance measurements were organized into five major goal areas:
• Reducing Crime and the Fear of Crime
• Improving the Quality of Life in Our Neighborhoods
• Enhancing Community and Police Partnerships
• Developing Personnel
• Continued Accountability
In creating these measurements, we did our homework, including interviewing 32 key leaders from the Ukiah community; comparing crime in Ukiah to other communities in our region, as well as state and national trends; and re-examining our department’s annual statistical information.
If you’d like to know more about these performance measurements, you can find our entire report at www.ukiahpolice.com/about-us/statistical-information.
During the next few weeks, I’ll talk about our findings and the new UPD performance measurements, starting this week with our most important goal: reducing crime in Ukiah.
In measuring whether crime has increased or decreased, our most significant benchmark is the national Index Crimes Report, published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In this report, the FBI asks law enforcement agencies to report on the occurrence of serious felony crimes. This report includes felonies like murder, sexual assaults, robbery, and assaults. It also includes serious property crimes like burglaries and significant thefts.
Between 2009 and 2011, UPD implemented a number of new crime reduction strategies and was able to significantly reduce violent crimes in Ukiah. In fact, during those years we reduced overall felony crime in Ukiah by 22 percent and violent assaults – including violent gang assaults – by 45 percent.
But because of budget reductions resulting from the recent five-year economic downturn, the City of Ukiah reduced police officer staffing from a high of 32 sworn officers, down to a low of 26 sworn officers. That reduction meant that, on any given day, only three officers were on-duty working to reduce crime (rather than the four we used to have). And, those three officers were typically expected to respond to a minimum of 70 calls for police service each day; during our peak summer months, they answered upwards of 90 to 100 calls a day.
As you can imagine, this reduction in officers has resulted in slower response times to calls for help, fewer officers to address ongoing community concerns like transients, and an increase in felony crime rates.
In fact, recently Ukiah’s serious felony crime rate has been on the rise, increasing 20 percent from 700 felony crimes in 2011 to 874 felony crimes in 2013.
Each one of those impersonal statistics represents a very personal experience; imagine being the victim of a crime. In just two years, 174 more people were victims of serious felony crimes.
While crime has continued to climb, the department has worked hard to make sure we solve as many of these crimes as possible. In the 2012-13 budget year, UPD solved 89 percent of the felony crimes against people, compared with the state average of 44 percent.
We also created “apples–to–apples” comparisons with a number of cities in our region, including Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Sonoma, Petaluma and Arcata to compare Ukiah crime to other nearby cities. We found that, statistically, Ukiah has more violent and non-violent crime than the majority of comparable cities of its size, demographics, and geographic location. In fact, Ukiah ranked 384th of 465 California cities (including Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles). That means only 81 cities had a higher crime index rate; or said another way, 383 cities in California are safer than Ukiah.
The most important lesson we learned from reviewing our crime data, and crime reduction strategies, was that there is a direct relationship between the amount of crime that occurs in a community and the number of officers available to reduce crime.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.