Amid the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase of 3.2% in part 1 crimes in South Pasadena.
That’s the information coming out of the local police department based on figures between from January 1 through July 31.
Part 1 crimes, according to SPPD Chief Joe Ortiz, are the eight serious offenses for which the FBI gathers national data including homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assaults, burglary, larceny, vehicle theft, and arson.
“Specifically, we have seen a 12% increase in burglaries and a 164% increase in vehicle theft,” explained Ortiz. “We believe many factors point to the rise in crime (countywide) i.e., the pandemic, ‘zero bail’ policy that led to the quick release of suspects, and the early release of inmates from state prison are just a few reasons for the increase in crime.”
Due to the high impact of COVID-19, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced in mid-June that people in state prisons for “non-violent” offenses with less than 180 days left on their sentence would be eligible for supervised release beginning July 1.
It means that the state of California is granting early release of roughly 3,500 inmates in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus in the prison system.
“Most of the incarcerated population live in crowded facilities where they share everything from cells to showers to dining spaces,” said Ortiz. “Unfortunately, this makes inmates much more vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases. I understand the ‘Why’ behind the release of inmates. We know these releases will occur on a rolling basis and will include those most vulnerable to health risks and those with less than a year to serve on their sentence, with an understanding that sex offenders and those incarcerated for violent crimes and domestic violence will not be eligible.”
The CDCR, noted Ortiz, has identified cohorts of inmates eligible for expedited release and is providing cities with the information. He said the South Pasadena Police Department will work closely with CDCR and Post Release Community Supervision Support (PRCS) to minimize recidivism or the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend with this population.
“Our officers are coming in contact, more and more, with the early released population from the county and state facilities,” explained Ortiz. “We continue to work closely with probation and parole to minimize re-offenders. We have deployed more resources and dedicated officers to specific areas to combat crime from occurring in the city. In collaborating with our community, our residents are ever vigilant to detect danger and do not hesitate if they see something, they say something.”
He said car thefts began to rise soon after the stay-at-home order was issued in mid-March. By April, Ortiz said the number of weekly reports was an average of 31% higher than they were during the first 10 weeks of the year.
His advice to residents as crime figures in town increase? “Keep your vehicle locked at all times, even while driving,” said Ortiz. “When parked, never leave your keys in the car. Close all the windows and the sunroof. Never leave your vehicle running and unattended. Avoid leaving valuables inside your car where passersby can see them. Do not leave your vehicle title in the vehicle. Install an anti-theft system in your vehicle.”
Thieves, stressed Ortiz, prefer to work in the dark. “Be particularly cautious at night about where you park your vehicle,” he stressed. “Park it in a well-lit area if possible.”
Asked what his toughest challenge as the police chief for the City of South Pasadena, he leaned on Jensen and Graves, authors of an article on police personnel, to help provide the answer, saying they may have said it best. “Because the world of tomorrow is already being created today, every action or inaction will have a consequence,” said Ortiz. “By understanding the world as it is and envisioning how it could be, policing leaders have the opportunity to create the future by design rather than by default. The nation, the community, and the brave men and women who serve in uniform deserve no less.”
Job satisfaction rates high for Ortiz, who has had a rewarding career in law enforcement. “My position as chief of police for the South Pasadena Police Department is very rewarding, both professionally and personally,” he said. “The position brings with it more opportunity to make things better for our community on a broader scale.”