WATSONVILLE — Building on a trend of the past five years, Watsonville’s crime rate decreased in 2012, but a rash of crime to start off the first three months of 2013 has Watsonville Police preparing for a busy summer, said Police Chief Manny Solano.
The overall crime rate decreased three percent from 2011, the equivalent of 49 fewer crimes reported, Solano said. It averages to about 36 crimes per 1,000 people, which is on par with Scotts Valley, but well below the cities of Capitola and Santa Cruz, which average 65 crimes per 1,000 people.
The violent crime rate, which includes homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, decreased about 10 percent in 2012. Four homicides occurred in the city, down from five in 2011, Solano said. Of those four homicides, one was gang-motivated.
While robbery decreased by 5.4 percent, the number of robberies committed with a firearm increased by three percent. The number of robberies committed by a knife or other cutting instrument decreased by 43 percent.
Instances of rape increased by one to 15, while motor vehicle theft cases decreased from 310 to 296.
The overall crime rate for the city has decreased every year since it peaked in 2007, when 53 crimes occurred for every 1,000 people.
Solano credited the department’s staff for helping to lower the crime rate, as well as partnerships with organizations such as Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance, County Gang Task Force, VALOR and Caminos Youth Diversion programs and others.
“Due in large part to our very hard-working staff and our law-abiding residents, together we’re making a positive impact even in the face of very difficult circumstances,” Solano said.
But more work still needs to be done, Solano said. Comparing the first three months of 2012 to the same time period this year revealed that the numbers are higher.
From January through March in 2012, one homicide occurred in the city, compared to three in 2013. Cases of vandalism went from 113 to 123, drug abuse cases rose from 87 to 118 and weapon cases rose from 34 to 48.
Solano said the police department meets monthly to discuss crime statistics and trends. Bank robberies are high on the department’s list at the moment, according to Solano.
“If our community doesn’t feel safe or feel they can’t move freely about the city, or worse yet, they don’t feel the need to report crime ... we need to do our best to address that,” he said.
Solano praised the Watsonville Youth City Council, who, through their youth safety survey of more than 1,100 high school students, have provided valuable assistance to police.
“Their work is not only changing policy, but it is resulting in some very helpful information for our police officers,” he said.
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