Fresno crime hits 3-decade low

Rape was the only violent crime to see an increase in 2003.

By Louis Galvan
The Fresno Bee,
WEDNESDAY, January 21, 2004

On the day he announced that the city finished 2003 with the lowest crime rate in more than three decades, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer warned his department and the community that the battle against crime is still far from over.

“You can’t get complacent,” Dyer said. “You have to continue to fight.”

Statistics show that Fresno had 70 major violent and property crimes per 1,000 population in 2003, compared with 103 in 1972.

The ratio stayed mostly above 100 in the intervening years, reaching 120 in 1991, 1994 and 1995.

The ratio dropped to 95 in 1997 and has stayed below that figure ever since, including 72 in 1999. It climbed to 81 in 2001 and dropped to 78 in 2002.

Dyer said the Police Department, working side by side with other law enforcement agencies and depending on community support, will continue to focus on gangs, drugs and parole violators.

Entering a new year, Dyer said, the department will continue to look for ways to keep youths from entering a life of crime or becoming repeat offenders. Dyer — flanked by, among others, City Manager Dan Hobbs, Council Members Brad Castillo and Jerry Duncan and Fresno County Sheriff Richard Pierce — reminded everyone what teamwork can do to help reduce crime.

Major violent and property crimes, also known as Part One offenses, are homicides, aggravated assaults, rapes, robberies, burglaries, auto thefts and larcenies (petty and grand thefts).

Fresno, according to the California Crime Index, had an overall reduction of 9.6% in Part One offenses in 2003 compared to 2002.

The index measures and compares specific crimes for all law enforcement agencies in the state.

During the same period, violent crime was down 7.3%. Homicides decreased by 14.3% and aggravated assaults by 0.6%. Robberies dropped 17.8%.

Rape was the only violent crime that showed an increase, going from 158 cases reported in 2002 to 164 last year, a 3.8% jump.

Property crimes were reduced by 9.8%. Burglaries dropped 12.3%; auto thefts fell by 21.1%; and larcenies were down 4.7%.

Dyer said the department also showed a significant effort in crime-clearance rates (relating to the number or crimes solved). In 2002, the clearance rate for violent crimes was 36.8%. Last year, the department cleared 48% of those crimes, for an 11.2% improvement.

Rape investigations had a 51.2% clearance rate, a 4.4% improvement over 2002.

The clearance rate for property crimes was 13.9% last year, 1.3% better than in 2002.

The department made 48,195 arrests last year, an increase of 13.9% over 2002. Of the total arrests, 13,265 people were arrested for felony crimes, an increase of 8.2%.

Dyer also applauded the department’s efforts to reduce traffic accidents. Injury traffic accidents were reduced by 7.4% and traffic deaths by 11.5%. Figures also showed that injury/fatal accidents caused by drivers under the influence were reduced by 17.4%.

Field surveys, he said, also showed that more people are using their seat belts, with compliance rising from 82% in 2002 to a record 93% last year.

The department conducted 32 DUI checkpoints, leading to 2,186 DUI arrests, an increase of 6.4% over 2002, and issued 62,290 hazard citations, more than twice the number in 2002.

Council Members Duncan and Castillo applauded the department’s accomplishments and promised to make public safety their priority.

Dyer thanked Pierce for his support in fighting drugs and gangs, as well as his efforts in building more jail space to keep offenders from being kicked out of custody because of a lack of jail beds.