There were no big surprises with the recent crime statistics report released by the Oakdale Police Department but the numbers certainly seem to reflect the ongoing economic struggle faced by the state of California as crimes such as theft and vandalism have seen increases from the prior year.
In Part One theft-related crimes, there were significant increases from the previous year.
Robbery: A 56 percent increase
In 2011, there were 14 cases; in 2010, there were 9.
Burglary: A 31 percent increase
In 2011, there were 286 cases; in 2010, there were 218.
Vehicle theft: A 14 percent increase
In 2011, there were 84 cases; in 2010, there were 74.
Larceny-theft: A 5 percent increase
In 2011, there were 530 cases; in 2010, there were 504.
According to Interim Police Chief Lester Jenkins, Oakdale experienced a rash of residential burglaries that were attributed to a core group of repeat offenders, or “serial” burglars with a long rap sheet and a penchant for stealing other people’s property. One of the known offenders is currently serving a two-year prison sentence and thus, off the streets, for now.While many thieves are opportunists who look for easy targets, (unlocked vehicle, home, etc.) there are a few out there with a sophisticated operation, said Jenkins.
“Some are highly coordinated and they send out scouts on bikes to look for targets. They are becoming more savvy,” Jenkins said.
It’s more important now more than ever to take steps to protect your property and many residents have taken that warning to heart, said Jenkins.
“The Neighborhood Watch program is very effective with 22-23 active groups and people have taken to engraving their driver’s license number into their valuables,” Jenkins said.
People are also encour aged to take pictures of their valuables as well as lock up their jewelry and weapons as the first place thieves go when they enter a house is the bedroom, looking for exactly those two items to steal. In one particular case, a burglary that occurred Oct. 3, 2011, the police are hoping to enlist the help of the Department of Justice to process DNA evidence left behind at the scene. In that case, a 14-year-old the girl returned home and went upstairs to find a man ransacking her bedroom. He dove from the second story window and ran through the backyard to escape. Police officers found the man — who was on parole for burglary — two blocks away, shirtless with scratches on his back.
Vandalism is another area of concern with a 30 percent increase from last year.
Sierra Railroad has been hit repeatedly with vandalism and acts of theft.
Bridle Ridge has been hit particularly hard as well.
“The copper wiring from the lights on the bicycle trail have been stolen in Bridle Ridge,” Jenkins said. “The thieves don’t get that much money for the copper wire but it’s very expensive to replace. Basically, anything with metal is being stolen: copper, aluminum, and iron. The farmers in the rural areas are really getting hit.”
More distressing than the theft is the rise in gang violence, said Jenkins.
The recent rise in drive-by shootings directly attributed to gang retaliation against one another has Jenkins determined to keep the pressure on the gangs in the city.
“We’ve got to keep the pressure on the gangs,” Jenkins said. “We plan to do more probation/parole sweeps in collaboration with other agencies, including ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).”
The recent South Fifth Street gang sweep helped quiet some activity, reminding gang members that Oakdale Police are still watching them but it doesn’t take much to rile them up against one another, said Jenkins.
It’s a constant struggle to keep the gangs in check and losing a School Resource Officer was a major blow in that arsenal. Budget cuts on both sides, the school district and the police department, caused the removal of the SRO from the school campuses. Both entities would like to revive the program, but the funding is simply not available. Not all increases are considered negative, however.
DUI arrests were up by 12 percent, but that is directly attributable to more enforcement, thanks to DUI check-points paid for by the Avoid the 12 grant. So more drunk drivers were arrested, but they were also taken off the road before they could hurt someone.
Another relatively good increase was the number of animal citations given out. Thanks to a program aimed at bringing pet owners into compliance, the police department designated one person to go door-to-door checking for dog licenses. There was a 105 percent increase in citations because of that program. Of the 260 citations given out in 2011 (136 of those were given in Riverbank; 124 in Oakdale) 46 percent of those citations were paid and brought into compliance in Oakdale and 24 percent in Riverbank.
As an added incentive to pay their fine, cited pet owners in Oakdale were informed that any unpaid animal control citations would be added to their water bill.
On a somber note, there were plenty of accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists. There were 11 accidents involving pedestrians and 12 accidents involving bicyclists in 2011. Some of these accidents resulted in major injuries.
Due to the increase in pedestrian and bicycle accidents, the police department has embarked on a bicycle safety education program aimed at the local youth. The program is grant-funded and is on-going at the various school sites as a bike rodeo where the participants also receive a free bike helmet.
“More people are riding bikes,” Jenkins said. “It’s a combination of factors economy driven, such as the cost of gas and insurance that has put more bicyclists on the road,” Jenkins said. “There’s also a lot more recreational bike use.”
Jenkins went on to say that the No. 1 cause of accidents involving bicyclists is people riding on the wrong side of the street.
“Bicyclists should ride in the same direction as traffic and walk their bikes across the crosswalk. Crosswalks are for pedestrians, not people riding bikes,” Jenkins said.
It’s also illegal to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk but officers realize that small children will often ride on the sidewalk for safety purposes and do not enforce that law when applied to children.
“You have to use common sense,” Jenkins said.
However, adults should know that riding on a sidewalk is not only illegal but dangerous for the pedestrians.
“I almost got clobbered by a bicyclist as I was coming out of Moss Rose,” Jenkins said, using personal experience as an example.