In 2014, Merced saw a record high for homicides in the city at 15, and just six of them were solved, police Chief Norman Andrade told the City Council on Tuesday.
In 2013, the chief said, the city had five homicides.
“That’s a 180 percent increase,” Andrade told the council. “That’s not a record anybody wants to see.”
The department’s 40 percent clearance rate on homicides was more than 20 percentage points less than the national average for solving murder cases, the chief reported.
Andrade attributed the low solve rate to insufficient staffing, noting that the department still has two detective vacancies to fill, and a lack of cooperation from the public during murder investigations.
Still, the chief said, overall crime fell in 2014 by 4.03 percent compared with the previous year.
Andrade also noted a troubling number of assaults on police officers in 2014, with 22 reported.
The police chief also said that, in 2014, the department received 33 citizen complaints regarding police officer performance, but that only two were justified.
Perhaps most significantly, given the national concern over use of force by officers, none of the complaints reported to the department in 2014 claimed any use of excessive force by Merced police.
Andrade noted that the total cases of Merced police using any force have fallen each year for the past four years.
The chief told the council that his greatest concerns for the department involve staffing levels, as well as community involvement and support.
The Sun-Star will take a closer look later this week at Andrade’s report and overall crime statistics from 2014.
Sun-Star staff writer Rob Parsons can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Key notes from the Merced Police 2014 Crime Report
Use of force by police: 2011, 101 cases; 2012, 94 cases; 2013, 72 cases; 2014, 66 cases
Gang-related homicides: Over the past five years, 23 of the 44 homicides in Merced have been gang related.
Overtime budget: From July 1 to Jan. 31, 2014, the Merced Police Department spent about $500,000 on overtime shifts.