How do we derail SLO’s skyrocketing crime rates?

T. Keith Gurnee

OPINION by T. KEITH GURNEE

Our current San Luis Obispo mayor would have us believe that crime has gone down between 2017-2018, but it belies a disturbing truth. Our Police Department’s own published crime statistics for the first three-quarters of 2018 reveals a significant increase in certain deeply concerning crimes.

While vehicle thefts and aggravated assaults have gone down, here is what the city’s own statistics show:

Sexual assaults have spiked by 180 percent during the first quarter of 2018 and the third quarter witnessed a 133 percent increase in reported rapes.

Residential burglaries increased by 92 percent in the first quarter of 2018 and by 116 percent during the second quarter.

Robberies also increased 250 percent during the first quarter and by another 88 percent during the quarter just completed.

In general, burglaries are up nearly 55 percent for the year.

If these are not alarming numbers, what are?

This is not the fault of our hard-working Police Department. In fact, our police have caught two of the suspects responsible for the sexual assaults. And thanks to the MeToo movement, more sexual assaults are being reported than ever before.

Yet the rank and file of the department is down some eight to nine positions that they’ve been trying to fill for some time. Also, the voter’s passage of Proposition 47 a few short years ago that decriminalized drug offenses seems mostly to blame for the increase in residential burglaries wherein valuables are stolen from our homes and fenced for drugs.

Add to that the amount of time it is taking the department’s Community Action Team (CAT) to deal with a certain component of our homeless population is sapping their ability to respond.

What should we do about these problems? Taking credit for a decrease in certain crimes while masking an increase in other serious crimes is not the answer.

Here are some thoughts on how we can deal with crime on our streets:

1. Bring the number of positions in our Police Department up to an amount necessary to fully populate our need for sworn personnel to serve our community and its neighborhoods.

2. Support the hiring of a mental health professional as a key addition to the Community Action Team to better communicate with the mentally ill and act proactively with the County’s Mental Health Agency and those services offered by non-profits to get the mentally ill the help that they need.

3. Bolster the efforts of the “Coordinated Community Response Team” (CCRT) between SLO and Cal Poly to address the spike in sexual assaults and devise solutions on how we can meaningfully reduce these crimes.

4. Be truthful with the public about crimes being committed in this city and publish these crime statistics quarterly in a very public way.

5. Be wary of the infusion of cannabis in our community since its legalization and take measures to ensure that it does not bring corruption into local government.

6. Consider joining with other communities and law enforcement agencies that are witnessing increases in property crime related to decriminalizing drug offenses to back an initiative to repeal Proposition 47.

These action steps should go a long way towards helping the public to better understand what is happening in San Luis Obispo and building public support for a more visible and meaningful presence of law enforcement in our community.

T. Keith Gurnee is a former San Luis Obispo councilman and a current mayoral candidate.

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