American Canyon reported having 533 violent crimes and property crimes in 2018, the lowest total in seven years, according to a new Police Department report.
That figure combines homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft. The total was 584 in 2017 and 773 in 2012.
City Councilmember David Oro mentioned this decline during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. He wanted residents to keep the overall crime picture in perspective, despite some troubling trends and a high-profile June case when dozens of residents had car windows shot out by BB gun vandals.
“The sky is not falling,” said Oro, whose home surveillance video helped break the BB-gun case and resulted in an arrest. “Crime is not raining down on this city.”
Police Chief Oscar Ortiz agreed.
“American Canyon is still a great town and a safe town,” Ortiz said. “It’s not a big-city type of town at all. It’s a great town to raise a family in.”
American Canyon pays Napa County $6.2 million annually for a division of the Sheriff’s Office to function as the city’s police department, as well as provides an additional $683,000 in support. The City Council on Tuesday heard the annual Police Department report.
The city’s homicide number remained steady in 2018 at zero. Auto thefts fell from 57 in 2017 to 41. Robberies fell from 14 to 13, the lowest total in seven years. Rapes rose from five to eight. Larceny cases rose from 279 to 315.
Two statistics that prompted concern were a rise in firearms seizures from 11 to 20 and a rise in pursuits from 14 to 23. Ortiz said more people have guns and more people are running from police.
City Councilmember Mark Joseph said those are the type of activities seen in bigger cities. He asked what police, the City Council and community can do.
Ortiz pointed to reforms in California law. California is letting more people out of prison and not all of them decide to become law-abiding citizens, he said.
“That’s one theory of why we’re seeing some of the trends we’re seeing that are very concerning in a town like this,” Ortiz said.
Police handed out 774 traffic citations on local roads in 2018, compared to 522 in 2017. They handed out 662 citations on Highway 29, compared to 427 in 2017.
“That’s not because they got meaner all of a sudden,” Ortiz said. “They still hand out a lot of warnings.”
Other officers are helping the traffic division out, he said. Community complaints help police tailor enforcement.
Some Highway 29 traffic takes to local streets as an alternative route to avoid rush-hour congestion. Ortiz said some of these drivers don’t respect stop signs in the residential neighborhoods. Stop signs violations rose from 201 in 2017 to 397.
Joseph focused on the number of traffic citations. That’s a way of telling residents that the police hear their concerns about traffic violations and are doing what residents want.
A resident during public comments asked why speeding violations fell from 174 in 2017 to 88. Some drivers travel 50 mph to 60 mph on Wetlands Edge Road, he said. The road passes through a residential neighborhood.
Ortiz said police focused on other types of traffic violations based on community input. Also, congestion is slowing traffic down. He urged people to report areas with speeding problems and to give the time of day the problems exist.
Police handed out 44 open container cannabis traffic citations in 2018, compared to three in 2017. Ortiz said there is perception that cannabis use is harmless to driving.
“We want to make sure the message is out there that we don’t want anybody driving impaired under any intoxication, no matter what the intoxicant is,” he said.
Ortiz said the effect of the national opiate epidemic in American Canyon is minimal. The drug seen locally is methamphetamine.
Vice Mayor Mariam Aboudamous said residents hear stories about people being robbed in local shopping center parking lots.
“What kind of things should we be looking for to keep us safe when we’re grocery shopping at night, for example, and what kind of things should we be calling you about?” she asked Ortiz.
Ortiz said to report anything suspicious. Police respect the Constitution and aren’t going to respond with a SWAT squad. If the situation is innocent, police will meet a nice person and be on their way, he said.
Police made 509 arrests in 2018. Of those arrested, 22 percent lived in American Canyon, 33 percent in neighboring Vallejo, 8 percent in Napa, 26 percent in other cities and 11 percent were transient, the police report stated.
“It’s not a big city type of town at all. It’s a great town to raise a family in.” Oscar Ortiz, police chief