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Annual report shows robbery up, overall crime down

The city experienced a minor decrease in crime overall but experienced marked increases in specific crime categories, according to crime stats released this week.

Part I crime data for 2016 noted a 2 percent drop in crime overall, compared to a 17 percent increase at this time last year, according to the report presented to council by Claremont Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen. Robberies, however, are up 93 percent in the city.

Part I crimes include homicide, robbery, rape, assault, burglary, theft, auto theft and arson. The stats were compiled by the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, which has been used by over 17,000 municipalities since its inception in 1930.

In 2016, the police department reported 1,031 of those crimes, down from 1,050 in 2015. Property crimes made up 94 percent of all part I crimes in the city.

Notably, bike thefts were down by 36 percent in 2016, largely due to ramped-up enforcement and an education program coordinated between the police department and Campus Safety. Thefts from vehicles were also down 6 percent.

The city noticed an increase in commercial and residential burglaries, two crimes that have made constant news in Claremont in recent years. Overall, commercial burglaries were up 19 percent in 2016—an increase of 31 burglaries—and residential burglaries were up 12 percent—an increase of 10 burglaries.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Chief Vander Veen noted that gangs from other parts of the county were coming into Claremont and other smaller and affluent communities to burglarize homes.

“The gangs pick out neighborhoods to target, dress professionally and use high-end rental cars in an attempt to not draw attention to themselves,” she said.

In looking at the numbers, the city saw an increase in robberies from 15 in 2015 to 29 in 2016 (94 percent); a 22 percent decrease in assaults, from 36 in 2015 to 28 in 2016; a 33 percent decrease in rapes, from 12 in 2015 to 8 in 2016; a 10 percent decrease in thefts, from 674 in 2015 to 607 in 2016; and a two percent increase in auto thefts, from 62 in 2015 to 63 in 2016.

The staff report presented to the council included a caveat urging Claremonters to resist comparing crime data to other cities of equal size. A number of variables can impact crime in certain parts of cities, city staff asserted, such as degree of urbanization, economic conditions and degree of crime reporting from the citizenry.

In local terms, the presence of Montclair Plaza—a possible hotspot for crime—can significantly alter crime averages. Montclair’s Part I crimes per 1,000 residents is 50.41 while Claremont averages 28.90, despite similar populations.

Unlocked cars and homes continue to be a problem in Claremont, the chief said, noting a staggering 137 percent increase in thefts from unlocked vehicles between 2013 and 2015. Although there was a 6 percent decrease in 2016, the department still highlights this area as a concern.

Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali reiterated the department’s concerns during the meeting, saying “we can’t emphasize enough” about the need for Claremonters to lock up their cars and houses.

“If you leave your door unlocked, you are just making it too easy for criminals to enter your home,” Mr. Nasiali said.

He also encouraged the community to work together with the department to fight crime.

“Unless we all participate, thieves will do what they want to do,” Mr. Nasiali said.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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