Crime in Claremont increases, but remains historically low

by Steven Felschundneff |

Crime in Claremont increased modestly in 2021 but remains remarkably low compared with 20 or even 30 years ago, according to an annual report from the Claremont Police department.

During the Claremont Police Commission meeting earlier this month, and again during the city council meeting last week, Police Chief Aaron Fate presented the city’s crime statistics for 2021 as part of the Uniform Crime Reporting program. Information in the report is divided into more serious offenses, referred to as part one crime, and lesser crimes classified as part two.

Part one offenses include crimes against a person, murder, rape, robbery and assault, in addition to property crimes such as burglary, theft, auto theft and arson.

“When news reports or government and law enforcement leaders report on crime reductions or increases, they are usually referring to these part one crimes,” Chief Fate said.

The police department tracks and analyzes crime data separately for offenses reported in the city, and those reported at the colleges, as well as the two combined for Claremont overall. This is done because Claremont residents have expressed interest in breaking the data down, however, when the department files its report with the Uniform Crime Reporting program it submits the cumulative numbers only, Chief Fate said.

The city overall, including data from the Colleges, experienced a 3% increase in part one crimes, from 767 in 2020 to 792 in 2021. However, when offenses committed at the Colleges were omitted, the crime rate decreased 9% from 716 in 2020 to 650 in 2021. It is important to note that theft represents the vast majority of part one crimes committed at the Colleges, including 121, or 85% of last year’s offenses.

In 2020 when the Colleges were closed all year just 51 part one crimes were reported, compared with 142 in 2021. Almost all of those crimes, 123, were reported from September to December when students returned.

“I am sure people will be doing COVID analysis for a long time, but when you don’t have students at the colleges there’s less opportunities for criminal activity,” Chief Fate said.

There were 45 part one crimes against persons reported citywide in 2021, including two murders, four rapes, 17 robberies and 22 assaults. Two of the rapes and one of the assaults were at the Colleges.

Historically property crimes make up the greatest percentage of part one crimes in Claremont, and that remained the case again in 2021 with burglary, theft, auto theft and arson accounting for 94% of these offenses.

There were 713 property crimes in 2020, compared with 747 in 2021, a nearly 5% increase. Thefts from unlocked vehicles decreased by 27%, with 61 reported in 2021 compared with 83 in 2020. Auto burglaries decreased by 26%, with 93 in 2021 compared with 125 the previous year.

Residential and commercial burglaries alternated between the two years, so in 2021 there were more residential burglaries, but fewer commercial. In 2021 there were 82 residential burglaries, compared with 69 in 2020. And in 2021 there were 68 commercial burglaries compared with 108 in 2020.

In 2020 Claremont reported the fewest number of part one crimes since the city began collecting the data in 1985. That makes 2021, with its modest increase in crime, the second safest in over a generation.

From 1985 to 1996 Claremont averaged just over 1,625 part one crimes per year, which peaked in 1993 when over 1,902 such offenses were committed. Since then, crime has steadily decreased and over the past decade the city has averaged just 925 part one crimes annually. Since 1990, Claremont’s population has increased by about 3,400, so the crime per capita rate is even lower. This represents some rare good news considering that rising crime rates, particularly those committed against persons, are creating uneasiness across the country.

One type of crime that began in 2020 and continued to increase this year was the theft of catalytic converters. These are not considered part one crimes but due to the big jump in these thefts, Chief Fate decided to include them in the part one crime report. There were 108 catalytic converter thefts in 2021, compared with 43 the previous year and prior to 2020, the city averaged about three a year.

“We had one lady who, when somebody went to steal her catalytic converter, it was already gone,” Chief Fate said.

The challenge for police is that when they catch suspected thieves with the catalytic converters, they have to identify a victim for it to be a crime. There have been situations in which a catalytic converter has been stolen and police pull a suspect over and recover the missing unit. However, when they take the unit back to the scene of the theft, like the wrong puzzle piece, the catalytic converter does not match up to the vehicle at the scene.

For this reason, Claremont Police will continue to hold etching events like the one they hosted last year with Sanders Towing where they engrave the automobiles vehicle identification number onto the catalytic converter to ease the task of identifying victims.

Police Commission Chair Frank Bedoya asked if it seems that in 2022 commercial burglaries were back on the rise, but Chief Fate replied that was not necessarily the case because these types of crimes happen in waves. “What we have seen is about what we would expect, so not incredibly surprising,” Chief Fate said

Commissioner Rolondo Talbott cautioned the public about relying on social media to get news about crime in Claremont and recommended that people rely on the information from police commission meetings, police department notifications or the Claremont Chamber of Commerce’s alerts. The COURIER also recommends its police blotter.

“That is really where you want to get your official information, about what the statistics are. So, I am putting that out there more for the public. Social media sometimes for some people becomes a source of truth. I think what is being put out there perhaps over sensationalizes what we are seeing,” Talbott said.

“I just want to give a thank you out to the community that [remains] aware of what is going on, and the people who work here at the Claremont Police Department who have suffered through some staffing shortages and other things. They have stayed committed to the community and have continued to work to keep it safe,” Chief Fate said.

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