After reviewing crime figures for 2017, Police Chief Oscar Ortiz found a few surprises — involving drug possession — among the myriad statistics compiled for the American Canyon Police Department’s Annual Report.
Last year, officers handed out 68 citations to individuals caught with drugs on them: methamphetamine, cocaine, or opiates.
Ortiz said he was surprised by this total because he expected it to be twice that number due to the passage of Prop. 47, the statewide initiative in 2014 that downgraded drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor.
He found himself wondering why there weren’t more drug citations. “Are officers not trying? Have they given up?” Ortiz said to the City Council on Feb. 6 during his report on 2017 crime numbers.
Instead, Ortiz concluded that many would-be drug citations became overshadowed by other factors that led to a person’s arrest and being sent to the Napa County Jail.
Some were arrested because they had violated their probation, or they had outstanding warrants that demanded they be taken in.
An even bigger “surprise” for Ortiz was the number of people busted for opioids versus meth. Opioids can range from heroin to many types of prescription painkillers.
“Historically it would have been 90-10,” said Ortiz, “90 percent meth, 10 percent opioid.”
But last year it was closer to an even split.
“That’s a huge surprise to me,” Ortiz said. “I did not anticipate that many opioid cases.”
He said he intends to pay close attention to such crimes in 2018 to see if the higher number of opioid cases continues.
“It follows the trend we’re seeing nationwide,” said Ortiz, referring rising rates of opioid use and what federal health officials have called an “epidemic” stemming from abuse of prescription painkillers.
Council members asked the police chief if any of the opioid citations involved Fentanyl, an extremely deadly opioid product, according to Ortiz, that has been garnering attention from public safety and health officials because it is stronger than heroin.
He said he was not aware of any Fentanyl cases in American Canyon
However, drug dealers are known to mix Fentanyl with heroin, Ortiz said, leaving the possibility that some of the citations issued for heroin possession could have unknowingly involved Fentanyl.
The police chief warned that exposure to Fentanyl can be deadly to officers or police canines if they come in contact with it. The drug can be absorbed through the skin.
Given this risk Ortiz is working on getting his officers more training on how to safely deal with cases involving Fentanyl.
The 2017 Annual Report also produced other noteworthy statistics that Ortiz pointed out to the City Council.
There were 57 cases of grand theft auto in American Canyon, marking the third straight year this crime has gone up (2016 = 56, 2015 = 44, 2014 = 31).
Total number of arrests for the Police Department also went up again, from 475 in 2015 to 523 in 2016 to 532 last year.
Of those arrested in 2017, 31 percent were American Canyon residents, 29 percent were from Vallejo, and the remaining 40 percent were from other jurisdictions.
Ortiz proudly reported that his department had a much higher success rate for solving violent and property crimes than the statewide average.
The California Department of Justice said the clearance rate for violent crime by law enforcement was 44.6 percent, but in American Canyon, it was 57.4 percent, according to Ortiz.
For the property crime, the statewide clearance rate was 11.56 percent. American Canyon’s was 37.2 percent.