BY DANIEL MCGLYNN //
2008 saw the usual spree of assaults, drugs, paper crimes, and shoplifting that are normal in El Cerrito. “The majority of crime in the city is property related theft,” said El Cerrito Police Commander Michael Regan, “usually burglarizing homes and autos.”
Statistically, according to the serious crimes reported by the El Cerrito police department to the State of California, there was roughly the same amount of crime in 2008 as in 2007. The reported offenses average a little over a hundred a month. One crime noticeably absent from the 2008 numbers was homicide. “There were no homicides last year, and that makes me happy,” said Regan. There were two homicides in El Cerrito in 2007.
One new policing approach that department implemented in 2008 was the community action response team. The team is designed to “address crime trends as they occur,” said Regan. If there is a rash of burglaries in one area of the city, the team will move resources to deal with it. The officers also investigate quality of life crimes, like kids loitering after school, or people drinking in the Target parking lot. In 2008, the team produced some “high quality arrests,” said Regan, “but we’re still feeling it out.”
Another crime prevention program run by the department is the school resource officer program. “The number of crimes reported at the school is dropping, every year the program continues to be more successful,” said Regan.
Other big news for the El Cerrito police in 2008 is that the department now has 42 officers; the result of a five-year effort to achieve high staff levels. Having 42 officers, “allows us to be more proactive,” said Regan.
Two parts of the department that benefit from high staffing levels, are the bicycle patrol and the traffic safety unit. Regan said the view of the department is that “if you take care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves.”
Sergeant Maples, the coordinator of the department’s bicycle patrol, said that in 2008 “1427 officer hours were logged from a bike, with 507 tickets issued and 45 arrests made by bicycle patrol officers.” One big benefit of having cops on bikes is that they are more accessible to the public. Sergeant Maples said that before he could sit at a corner in a car all day and not interact with the public, but on a bike people approach him regularly. Officers on bikes patrol the BART paths, pull cars over, and make pedestrian stops.
The bicycle patrol has been around for a while, but in 2008, Maples said the department started its own in house training. “By the end of 2009 every member of the department will be trained to work bike patrol,” said Maples.
The traffic safety unit was also busy in 2008. To answer a citizen request for pedestrian safety, the traffic unit issued 819 pedestrian-traffic related citations and 179 citations for cars failing to yield to pedestrians, said Sergeant Steve Bonini, head of the unit. There were also directed efforts at “speed as a primary collision factor in 2008,” he said.
The department also started a commercial traffic enforcement unit that weighs and inspects the big rigs that rumble down San Pablo. For 2009, Bonini said a new traffic unit goal is enforce laws against unlicensed drivers.
As previously reported by the El Cerrito Focus, one new community awareness tool implemented by the department in 2008 is the adoption of crimereports.com. This system replaces the posting of weekly crime reports by the department and also maps the crimes in the city, so that residents get a sense of where crimes are happening.
The El Cerrito Focus also plotted all reported felonies for 2008 in department’s press releases in a visual representation so residents can see the types and frequencies of crime in the city.