DOS PALOS -- There's an upside and a downside to the crime in Dos Palos.
Violent crime is on the rise, but property crime dropped significantly from 2011 to 2012.
Chief Barry Mann of the Dos Palos Police Department said he's pleased that property crimes, such as burglaries, took a dip -- decreasing to 55 in 2012 from 174 in 2011.
But other crimes spiked last year. Aggravated assaults increased to 48 in 2012 from 17 in 2011, according to data from the Dos Palos Police Department.
Much of the violent crime can be attributed to gangs, Mann said. Reversing their influence is going to be one of his focuses in 2013.
"There is definitely some work to be done," he said. "I'm glad to see our property crimes down, but I'm very concerned about the assaults and the early homicide last year."
Mann said there are about a dozen criminals who are responsible for much of the city's property crime. Some key arrests and prosecutions last year helped drive down those figures.
"We just really focused in on a few individuals who are responsible for the majority of those acts," Mann said.
But because of jail overcrowding and shorter sentences, many of those repeat offenders are back on the streets.
So far this year, there have been six vehicles stolen in Dos Palos.
To keep property crime down, Mann plans to dedicate a lot of attention to the usual suspects.
Mayor Johnny Mays said it's sometimes hard to explain fluctuations in crime statistics. He credits Mann and his officers as well as City Manager Darrell Fonseca for fostering community awareness through programs such as neighborhood watch in an effort to reduce crime in Dos Palos.
"We've had a few scars, but I think all-in-all it's a safe place to live and a good place to raise kids," Mays said.
Fonseca said the city's neighborhood watch isn't an organized or formal program yet, but he hopes to make it one this year. So far, it's been a word-of-mouth operation that's proved to be beneficial, he added.
"We're trying to get people used to the process individually and on their own in their own neighborhood," Fonseca said.
The city has participated in the National Night Out program for the past few years, helping neighborhoods organize against crime and connect with the Police Department.
Including Mann, there are seven full-time officers with the Dos Palos Police Department.
Late last year, city officials cut the officers' pay by 5 percent and made them pay more into their retirement and dependent medical coverage because of a tightened budget.
The move frustrated some officers. A union official said at least three of them were looking for jobs elsewhere.
Mays said despite the pay issue, the officers have done their jobs admirably.
"The chief's doing a great job despite challenges trying to meet officers' needs," he said. "It was a tough thing for us to have to do that. They've done their duty."
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.