Police chief says crime declining overall

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Though year-to-date figures show an increase in burglaries, Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders said the numbers are actually declining and overall crime in the city is down.

Burglaries — auto, residential and commercial are all tracked under one heading — rose about 10 percent from January to October by comparison to the same period in 2008.

The percentage is based on a jump from 497 to 555, Sanders said, with auto burglaries — considered a crime of opportunity — accounting for the bulk of burglary cases.

However when evaluating the seven categories of crime reported to the FBI, Sanders said crime in Clovis has actually dipped 5 percent.

Crimes like rapes, robberies, thefts and auto thefts have decreased sharply, he said.

Auto thefts alone have dropped 53 percent.

Burglaries, too, have dropped in the last three months and are staying down, he said, explaining they spiked in June and July, with 150 during the two-month period.

But the numbers have started tapering off.

Sanders said in August there were 63, 49 in September and 37 in October.

“We’re actually starting to see a decrease again,” he said.

The department has increased its staffing, making it possible to add three new detectives, and officers have worked hard to establish relationships in the community. All are factors, Sanders said, that have helped curb burglaries.

“Our guys are out on the street and are being as proactive as possible to try to stop it before it happens,” he said.

Following the spike, police made several arrests, breaking up burglary rings that were responsible for multiple cases.

Sanders said there have been 67 burglary arrests this year, with charges issued in 32 cases.

Community involvement makes the biggest impact both on preventing and solving burglary cases, Sanders said.

He said several arrests came about as a result of observant neighbors or communication with police.

Traffic stops led to about half of all arrests.

Sanders said most if not all of the burglaries could be prevented or solved with community input.

“We can’t do this by ourselves. The community has got to be involved, whether it’s neighborhood watches or a phone call to police,” he said.

“In a community of this size, a lot more folks know what’s going on than what folks are sharing with us.”

As the holiday season approaches, Sanders said police know to expect an increase in burglaries. Thieves typically target shopping center parking lots and homes in search of valuables.

Residents can help curtail the trend and protect themselves, he said, by being aware of their surroundings, locking vehicles, not leaving valuables in their vehicles and by calling police to report any suspicious activity.

Also, writing down serial numbers and other identifying information for valuables will help make sure those items are returned to their owners in the event they are recovered.