Sonora Police Chief Mark Stinson spoke about recent crime trends. He also addressed issues like school violence, gang activity and wildlife in the city.
Chief Stinson identifies an uptick in the crime from vehicles of thefts inside vehicles, and an uptick in the past two months of vehicle thefts. “Every time I am on your show we talk about do not leave your keys in your vehicle, or leave your vehicle running. Unfortunately people are still doing that, and unfortunately vehicles are still being stolen, at this point we have actually had double the vehicles being stolen from last year.”
He notes 16 vehicles have been stolen already this year and last year, all year, there were only 14 stolen. “Even though [your car] is parked in your driveway you just can’t be leaving keys in the vehicle any more.” Most of the vehicles are recovered in the Modesto or Ceres area some are ok, some are wrecked, it varies.
Violent crimes- 15 assaults last year from deadly weapons compared to 5 all year in 2013. Stinson says this year we are probably going to be pretty close to last year. More people seem to be turning to violence more than they have in the past.
Older population crimes are mainly internet based. An issue about a month ago with people calling and saying “Hey, your relative was in a car accident (or in jail) send us cash.” We had two individuals in Tuolumne community, one really respected and he felt really embarrassed when he wired $5,000 out of the country to help his granddaughter. Advice: call family or law enforcement to find out more or confirm, don’t automatically run down to get money to wire somebody. Once the money is sent out of the country the FBI is in charge and most are dead-end type cases never any criminal prosecution.
Burglaries: Home burglaries are actually down in the city if we continue at the pace we are we will be down from last two years which is really great. We encourage alarm systems, most of the time when something happens we can get there in a reasonable response time. Use deadbolts and outside lighting lights that are on monitors. Call us and we can give you ideas on how to increase the security of your home. Odds are better out in the county not to be caught vs in the city with more officers around.
Vehicle vs Pedestrian huge and scary increase, at the end of September 18 compared to only 14 last year. Mixed reasons, a few pedestrians being unsafe, a few being safe but just because you are between two white lines doesn’t mean you are safe. Most happen right around dusk- wear light and reflective clothing. Also distracted driving, the over all accident rate is up as well because people aren’t concentrating on driving which they should be doing. Not just cell phones but a variety of distracting things.
Student incidents: more in the public’s view. Couple years ago a student was taken into custody for planning to shoot students at homecoming but now it is more in the news media, even nationwide. It is probably for the better to let people know that crimes do happen in rural areas. Regarding the Death Threat at Sonora High School, not anything new to discu, investigation is ongoing. Outside help from the Sheriff’s department and a crime lab down in Ripon. Theme of school shooting classes, certain games disassociate themselves from real death and video game death. So when they are shooting someone in real life they are expecting them to bounce back up again. A lot of studies and there seems to be a connection between some of these shootings and video games.
Drugs: Unfortunately what we are seeing is a big comeback of herion, a nasty dirty drug, hard on the body. People addicted to prescription drugs, addicted to pain killers, turned to herion to continue their addiction. Those we arrest in the city limits are in their late teens early 20’s and most of the drugs are being brought in from Modesto, the valley area, from a pipeline from Mexico. Methamphetamine continues to be a big drug around here and we still arrest people for selling it. Also a third drug, prescription products that are opiate based is a problem.
Staffing: Not enough staffing, one below the minimum staffing, we have not bounced back from the great recession. What minimum staffing means we are below the number we need to do our day-to-day job 24/7/365. So are not at a level where we can cover vacations or trainings we have to pay people overtime just to cover when people go on vacations. The reserve program is really great, they have filled some major holes and fill shifts for us.
From previous staffing till now we are short: two school resource officers, four officers, still short a lieutenant, a patrol Sargent, traffic officer, and one investigative officer. We are at about half of what we used to be. A parking enforcement officer is hoping to start end of November and then a 3-4 month training, there will be a public announcement. Parking enforcement is way down on the spectrum of law enforcement and that was one of the first services to go.
Vehicle vs. Pedestrian on Mono Way always having people hit, between crosswalks and at the Mono Way and Greenly intersection don’t see people in the crosswalk. Stockton and Oak four separate Vehicle vs. Pedestrian accidents. Normally at night time so the council members are looking at lighting. Vehicle accident hot spots Mono and Greenely people getting rear-ended, people accelerating, Stockton and Oak once again people not paying attention. You need to be focused on driving the vehicle not something else.
Homeless being violently attacked, was isolated incident and they are being prosecuted. There are some problems of homeless assaulting other homeless. Not everybody that is homeless is a bad person, I tip my hat to the few that come forward about things they have seen, things they have heard. We have a few homeless camps, some private property owners that allow people to legally camp. The old Whitmill property the owner has signed an enforcement letter letting us enforce no trespassing laws. The owner allowed it for so long that we are still working to keep people out, from re-inhabiting those camps that we have pushed people out of.
Recent Bear/Mountain Lion sightings: Bear on North end of town up around the O’Haire 49/N Washington St. near Vic’s towing yard. Had an officer see a smaller, 65 lbs, Mountain Lion. A huge Mountain Lion was killing domestic animals and had a parvo-like illness and had to be put down by Fish and Wildlife. Call police if you see an animal so they can report to Fish and Wildlife for monitor and tracking.
Gang activity: Very fortunate very limited we get people from Modesto or Ceres and they will tag our town and leave their gang signs and then they go back thank goodness. We don’t see too much around the Sonora area, I know in the County they have some White Supremacist type gangs and some motorcycle type gangs.
Seasonal crimes: Alcohol consumption in the summer there are more public intoxication type arrests and drunk driving arrests, into the winter months those decline. Vehicle thefts increase in the winter. If you are going to be buying a bunch of merchandise try to put it in the truck area, cover it up so it is not visible. Please give us a call if you see a person looking in vehicles. We would rather go out and see nothing has happened. Two weeks ago an alert citizen saw a person, didn’t look right, the police found out they had already broken into two cars and put the stuff in their car and were looking for more. I would rather go to 100 tips that pan out to be nothing than none at all.