FBI: Property crime down throughout Valley, violent crime and murder a mixed bag in 2014

A Fresno police officer carries a weapon away from the scene where a body is on the ground after two people were shot on Oct. 1 at North San Pablo and East Barstow avenues in Fresno.
A Fresno police officer carries a weapon away from the scene where a body is on the ground after two people were shot on Oct. 1 at North San Pablo and East Barstow avenues in Fresno.

Property crimes in most Valley communities declined in 2014 compared to 2013, according to data compiled by the FBI. But local law enforcement agencies say crime overall will be on the upswing once data is tallied for 2015 because of a new state law that makes it harder to jail drug addicts who commit crimes.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Sept. 28 released nationwide crime statistics for 2014. Analysis of central San Joaquin Valley cities yielded a few positive trends for residents.

According to the FBI report, the most sweeping change in Valley crime came in per-capita rates of property crimes. The FBI includes burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson in its property crime statistic. Nearly all Valley cities saw a reduction in the property crime rate in 2014, with Tulare, Visalia and Porterville leading the way with decreases of over 20 percent.

Auto theft was down in the Valley, which is considered a hotbed for car thieves. However, the number of arson fires increased in many areas.

The more serious crime trends were mixed. Violent crime, which the FBI defines as rape, murder, robbery or aggravated assault, and homicide numbers varied throughout the region.

In Fresno, murder and arson rates increased from 2013 to 2014. Property crime, violent crime and auto thefts decreased.

464.2The 2014 rate of violent crimes per 100,000 residents in Fresno. Police say this number has increased nearly 15 percent in 2015.

Fresno police Lt. Joe Gomez said some of these trends will not continue in 2015.

There have been 35 homicides through Friday, up slightly from 34 at this point last year. Property crimes are also down 1.7 percent during the same period, Gomez said. However, violent crime is up nearly 15 percent – with robberies up more than 25 percent.

“Violent crime and property crimes are a focus for our department right now,” Gomez said. “We’re trying to reduce these in order to better protect our community.”

The Fresno Police Department attributes much of this upswing to Proposition 47, which reclassified many drug possession and burglary offenses as misdemeanors.

Sgt. Kristina Hershberger of the Clovis Police Department agrees.

“These folks would have been arrested and sent to drug treatment programs,” she said. “Now, they are out on citations, and they turn to theft to support their drug habits.”

Hershberger said Clovis has seen a massive uptick in property crimes since Prop. 47 went into effect. She recommends residents don’t leave anything of value in their car, as virtually all of the vehicle burglaries her department investigates are “quick smash-and-grabs for purses or backpacks.”

Auto thefts in Clovis are also up in 2015, Hershberger said.

Clovis police are also working to keep gang activity out of the city, Hershberger said.

“There are gangsters here in Clovis,” she said. “A lot of people don’t think so, but there are.”

Try to be a hard target. Security lights are great, and video cameras are inexpensive these days.

Clovis police Sgt. Kristina Hershberger’s advice for residents worried about property crime

Madera saw its high crime rates drop significantly in 2014. In 2013, its rate of 902 violent crimes per 100,000 residents was higher than most cities in the central San Joaquin Valley. Its 2014 rate of 653.6 violent crimes was an improvement, but this rate is still higher than Clovis, Fresno, Visalia and Hanford. The murder rate also dropped from 11.1 per 100,000 residents to 9.4, which is still among the highest in the Valley.

In Hanford, the city’s already-low murder rate of 3.7 dropped to 1.8 in 2014. Only Clovis had a lower rate among Valley cities of more than 30,000 residents. However, violent crime rose from 549.4 to 556.3 incidents per 100,000 residents.

Visalia’s murder rate increased slightly from 6.3 to 7.8, which still was below other large cities like Fresno, Madera, Tulare and Merced. Violent crime decreased from 391.2 to 376.7 per 100,000 residents.

The unincorporated areas of Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties saw decreased crime numbers pretty much across the board. The exceptions were Madera County, which saw a slight increase in violent crime, and Kings County, where the murder rate increased from 11.8 to 15 per 100,000 residents.

For a full recap of the FBI’s annual crime stats, check out its website.