Dip in crime categories in Livingston

Targeting gangs, expanding patrols planned this year

mnorth@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 7, 2013 

LIVINGSTON -- Most crime categories declined in 2012 as officers continue working with the community to promote awareness and safety.

Homicides were one of the few categories that increased in 2012, according to data from the Livingston Police Department. No homicides were reported in 2011, but there were two last year.

There was also a slight increase in aggravated assaults, to 19 in 2012 from 17 in 2011. Five of last year's incidents involved a shooting.

Police Chief Ruben Chavez said his department plans to target gangs and expand active patrols to reduce violent crimes. He also has "other big things planned," but didn't want to give any specifics.

Chavez has used public outreach to cut back on property crime in the city, and he wants to do the same when it comes to gangs.

There will be a "gang- prevention summit" Feb. 16 in the Livingston City Council chamber to teach the public about gang-related issues and what people should do if they notice gang activity in their neighborhoods.

Chavez said most violent crimes in Livingston can be linked to two sources.

"It's either gang- or drug-related," he said. "A lot of times, they're connected."

In addition to a crackdown on gangs by his department, Chavez also highlighted the importance of working together with other agencies in nearby communities, since gang violence often spreads between areas.

"We need to share resources and info," he said.

Chavez has placed emphasis on reducing property crimes since he joined the department in March.

Residential and commercial burglaries dropped off in 2012 to 90 from 133 the previous year.

That progress has been made even though the Livingston Police Department is down to 17 sworn, full-time police officers from 19 in 2010. Chavez said he's been looking at ways to provide the same level of serv-ice with fewer officers.

Councilman Arturo Sicairos said the possibility of adding more officers isn't possible now because of the tight budget, but he would like to see the police force increase when money becomes available. He noted that staffing is "a little under where they'd like it to be."

Regardless of staffing, Sicairos said Chavez and the rest of the department has done a commendable job of cutting down on burglaries, which was also a focus of the council. He's hopeful that downward trend continues.

"I'm personally happy with the work the department and Chavez have done," Sicairos said. "I'm very optimistic."

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.


By the Numbers

Crime 2010 2011 2012
Homicide 1 0 2
Burglary (residential or commercial) 108 133 90
Burglary (vehicle) 47 47 18
Rape 1 0 2
Sex assault 5 2 1
Auto theft 34 36 40
Robbery 13 12 10
Petty theft 121 114 97
Grand theft 23 17 16
Vandalism 67 61 33
Domestic violence 45 41 27
Assault 43 30 26
Aggravated assault 27 17 19

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