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Sonora Sees Violent Crimes Spike

Sonora, CA — One Mother Lode police chief is calling his city’s uptrend in violent crimes “very disturbing.”

Sonora Police Chief Mark Stinson shares, “We saw an uptick on some very, very major crimes last year, which is not heartening. It’s concerning to me because we saw a large increase in violent crimes, which is never good to have in a small community like ours.”

The chart below from the city’s 2014 Annual Report shows there was one homicide last year, the first in 13 years. As reported in February 2014, police found Ricky Roberts shot dead in his auto body shop. Several months later, Twain Harte resident, 45-year-old Cheryl Lucero was arrested for the murder.  The chart also found assaults with a deadly weapon tripled, jumping from five to 15, between 2013 and 2014; there were 11 in 2012. Stinson explains, “We saw a huge spike…we started off the year very disturbingly, as well, because we had an assault with a deadly weapon about every week for the first six weeks.”

Asked if drugs were a major reason for the hike, Stinson says they played a role in the attacks but there were other factors as well, such as road rage. He had no exact reason for the surge except to say, “For some reason we are becoming a more of a violent community. We’re seeing that across the board. People are attacking people for no reason and it’s kind of weird.”

Combating this crime is difficult, according to Stinson. He comments, “Assault with deadly weapons is really hard to address, because those are…quick…to happen. Normally it’s not something that’s planned out and carried out…so it’s tough to address those.”

Outsiders cannot be blamed for committing those violent crimes, Stinson reports, as all the perpetrators were local. However, that is not the case with burglaries, which are up from 113 in 2013 to 128 last year, representing a 13 percent increase.  “We know for a fact, because of some of the cases we solved,” he states. “Those burglaries were committed by people from either Modesto, Ceres or Stockton.”

More officers out in public help curtail crimes, according to Stinson, who hopes to fill some of the currently “frozen” positions on the force. However, he says the public is also a key factor. While he cautions that citizens should never get physically involved in an incident, alerting police can prevent crimes. It helps, the chief stresses, “If the public can get the vehicle’s license plate numbers…any unique features, like bumper stickers or dents…a good description of the suspect.” Noting distinctive features, like tattoos, can be a great boon. “[Those details] have solved a couple of cases, because officers recognized the tattoo as belonging to a certain person,” he states.

Below is the year-end statistic comparison chart from the City of Sonora’s 2014 Annual Report:

Statistics 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
Calls for Service 7,216 7,386 6,932 6,454 6,836
Officer Initiated 12,055 12,836 7,971 6,312 8,904
Total Incidents 19,271 20,222 14,903 12,766 15,740
Felony Arrests 209 288 240 240 251
Misd. Arrests 631 673 703 562 695
Total Arrests 840 961 945 815 946
Total Reports 1,845 2,007 2,048 2,122 2,034
Homicides 1 0 0 0 0
Robberys 5 6 5 8 6
Sexual Assaults 6 7 5 7 3
Assault W/Deadly Weapon 15 15 5 11 17 8
Burglaries 128 113 118 141 118
Vehicle Thefts 14 18 6 17 14
Domestic Violence 48 45 42 52 85
DUI Arrests 84 102 112 54 98
Moving Cites 1,138 885 731 390 814
Parking Cites 886 1,011 549 1,016 1,248
Traffic Collisions 151 173 170 182 237
Total Phone Calls 40,335 40,965 39,598 30,229 43,509