Ukiah's Crime Rates
A few years ago our department adopted a strategic plan called, “Measuring What Matters Most.” The plan prioritizes our efforts to reduce and solve crimes in our community. Our goal is to make Ukiah as safe as possible. Each month, we measure our department performance in responding to, solving, and preventing crimes that impact the quality of life within our community.
February is usually our slowest month of the year, but our department continues to see a significant increase in demands for our services. This February our department responded to 2188 calls for police service, started 239 criminal investigations, made 39 felony arrests, 91 misdemeanor arrests. 12 DUI arrests and wrote 119 citations.
Of these calls, the highest priority (most important) crimes we measure are violent crimes against people and felony property crimes like burglary and thefts. In February, our community experienced 5 robberies and 16 felony and misdemeanor assaults. That’s almost one significant violent crime per day. I’m glad to report that our department’s officers were able to solve and make an arrest in every one of these crimes – a 100 percent success rate. In comparison, the average success rate for a California law enforcement agency is 45 percent.
We also measure burglaries and thefts from cars, outside of homes, and other locations. In February, our community reported 5 burglaries and 22 thefts of property, and our department’s officers solved 19 of these crimes – a 70 percent success rate, compared to the California average of 15 percent.
But, along with the good news about solved crimes, we have bad news about many crime and quality of life issues that are getting worse in our community.
One of these problems is transients. Transients are different than folks who are temporarily down on their luck, like a homeless family who has been affected by a downturn in the economy and needs assistance to get back on their feet. In Ukiah, many non-profit organizations assist homeless individuals and families; however, the people must be sober and non-violent to utilize these services.
When I talk about transients, I am referring to people who chose a nomadic lifestyle that often includes using alcohol, illicit drugs and draining our community of local homelessness resources. Transients choose not to be sober, which often leads to violence. Under the influence of these substances, transients commit crimes such as panhandling, burglary, and assault; and they sometimes allow their aggressive, poorly controlled dogs to harm others.
These behaviors affect the safety of people in Ukiah and put our police officers at risk. While a nomadic lifestyle is not illegal, the violent behavior is and it affects safety in Ukiah.
Probation and Parolee Issues:
Another significant problem on the rise is criminal activity related to those on parole and probation. To save money, the State of California began reducing its state prison population through a program called Realignment. Today, only the most serious criminals are now being sent to state prison. Most other criminals are being sent to either our county jail, or have been placed on probation or parole within our community.
In addition, the State of California is reducing the number of parole officers. The State closed the Lake County Parole Office and is now planning the closing of the Humboldt County Parole Office. Parolees in those counties will be supervised through the Ukiah Parole Office. Because of these budget reductions, each Ukiah parole officer must now supervise more than 70 inmates. With this workload, the State recognizes that more is required of our local police officers.
The Department of Corrections estimates that more than 70 percent of those in prison are involved with violent gangs, and in an effort to reduce state prison populations, it is these criminally sophisticated prisoners who are being released back into our communities. As a result, the Sheriff’s Office has had to deal with increased violence inside the county jail, our County Probation Officers are supervising more violent offenders, and our Ukiah Police officers are experiencing violence increases and problems with gang violence and gang sophistication from prisoners returning to our community.
Mental Health Crisis Intervention Issues:
Routinely, mentally ill patients in crisis from all parts of Mendocino County are transported to local hospital emergency rooms, most often to Ukiah Valley Medical Center. When these patients are taken to the hospital, they are considered a danger to themselves or others – that’s why they are being taken for treatment.
The problem comes when our police officers are forced to either wait for limited crisis intervention workers or use physical force to restrain these patients. While police officers are managing mental health crises, the departments’ ability to respond to other calls for police service drops significantly. And, while our officers are trained to handle mental health crises and to keep people safe, they are not mental health workers.
To improve the situation, Mendocino County Health and Human Services Administration (HHSA) is currently evaluating proposals from organizations that are interested in providing mental health, crisis intervention, and counseling services for people in Mendocino County.
I hope by contracting with organizations that are already setup to care for the mentally ill, HHSA will be able to obtain better services for those who need crisis intervention.
Regardless of whether the County contracts for mental health services or provides these services through their Mental Health Department, the need for additional crisis intervention resources and secure supervision of mental health patients is urgent and significant if we want to prevent these patients from hurting themselves or others while being detained at the hospital.
Community Quality of Life Concerns:
Because our police officers are spending so much time responding to high-level criminal activities, we have not been able to address the many common quality of life nuisance issues that significantly impact our community. These include city code violations like loud music, theft of recyclables, and most recently thefts from unlocked cars.
While these nuisance issues are important, they tend to take a back seat to more serious crimes. With more police officers, we could tackle all of these problems, but for now, we’ll do our best with the excellent officers we have. We prioritize each call and handle as many as we can.
To avoid becoming a victim of theft in Ukiah (or anywhere else), here are a few simple things you can do to protect yourself. We obtained these tips from our own police officers who have years of dealing with these types of crimes, as well as websites and other security experts:
- Always lock your car doors when you leave your vehicle, even when parked at home.
- Do not leave valuable items in your car, especially in plain sight or overnight.
- When unloading items from your car, don't leave your vehicle open while you take items inside -- this makes the items remaining in the car easy for thieves to take.
- Park in well-lit areas when shopping.
- When you are out shopping, hide valuables, even small ones.
- Do not let thieves know what you buy; do not put the boxes they came in out on the curb in plain sight with the trash and recycle bins. Break the boxes into pieces and place them in the bottom of the bin.
- Don't let mail or papers stack up while you’re away; stop mail and newspaper delivery when you go out of town. Call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to request a vacation hold. The Postal Service will hold your mail at your local post office until you can pick it up or are home to receive it.
- Let a neighbor know you will be gone and that there will be no one coming and going from your house.
- Ask a neighbor or friend to remove door hangers, business cards, or other advertising left on your doorstep.
- Ask your neighbor to bring your garbage cans in if you leave on trash collection day.
- Put lights on a timing system so your house does not stay dark.
- Keep home doors and windows locked.
- Consider installing a home security system including a home security alarm.
- Don't leave a hidden key outside.
- Don't give keys to service people.
- Avoid bragging to others about valuables you own.
- Install exterior lighting, and consider using a motion sensor so lights come on unexpectedly.
- Record serial numbers and photograph household valuables.
- Always park your cars in the garage with the garage door shut to prevent anyone from observing your occupancy patterns.
- Place a radio or TV on a timer and the volume up loud enough to be heard from outside.
- Lower the sound of your telephone ringer (or answering machine) so that it can't be heard from outside.
- Never leave notes on your door indicating you are gone.
- Have your home phone forward calls to your cell. Thieves will sometimes call your home to see if you are there.
- Never open the door to strangers.
- Definitely, do not invite strangers into your home, including uninvited carpet cleaning salespeople and cheery young magazine salespeople who may be there to case the house.
- Be a good neighbor: watch your neighborhood and notify the police if you see something suspicious.
Anyone can be the victim of a crime, and being a victim can be extremely intrusive and disturbing. Sometimes, preventing crimes can simply be a matter of taking a few precautions.
We have listed these safety tips, and our strategic plan, on the Ukiah Police website for your reference.
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.