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Despite budget reductions and recent layoffs in the police department, serious crime in Sacramento has dropped 18 percent over the last three years – the second largest decline in California among cities of similar size – according to a report that Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel presented to City Council Tuesday.
Braziel told council members that the core mission of the Sacramento Police Department hasn’t changed since 2008 when he took charge. The mission, he said, is still “reduce crime, engage the community and provide excellent service.”
What has changed, however, is the number of police personnel – 81 sworn officers were laid off in July – and a department budget reduced by $12.2 million this year.
Over the past four years, police department budget reductions have resulted in $35 million in cuts and a loss of 372 positions, according city staff reports.
Still, Sacramento crime rates have been on a downward trend since 2007, Braziel said Tuesday.
Braziel’s report to the City Council included crime rate information compiled from department records and annual crime statistics from the FBI.
Braziel attributes the numbers to a “more focused effort” to achieve department goals, and an emphasis on working as efficiently as possible with the resources available.
“We have really focused on our 911 (call) center and operations in the field,” Braziel said. “We actually have more people answering the 911 line than (we had) three years ago.”
Braziel said staffing for field resources – patrol officers, traffic officers and officers on the streets responding to calls for service – has gone down 15 percent since July.
The investigations staff has been reduced by 35 percent, Braziel added.
“Those reductions are what necessitated a change in our dispatch protocols,” Braziel said.
In his last report to City Council in June, Braziel told council members that, with such a reduction in staffing, the department would no longer respond to some types of service calls, such as “cold” burglaries, where the suspect was no longer on the scene and the victims weren’t in danger.
“However, if we find a pattern or a series (of incidents) or something unique about an incident,” Braziel said, “we dispatch reports out to officers in the field and a patrol will go out to the scene to follow up.”
By prioritizing responses to nonviolent crime calls, Braziel said he is able to streamline operations and focus personnel where they are needed most at any given time.
Councilman Jay Schenirer told Braziel he was pleasantly surprised by the report.
“With budget cuts and an economy that is bad as it’s been in 40 or 50 years,” Schenirer said, “to see crime (in Sacramento) go down, that’s great.”
Schenirer said he would chalk it up to how well Braziel is running the department, and the continuous development of new ideas to reduce crime that are coming from the department.
Braziel told council members that violent crime is down 20 percent, and property crime is down 17 percent over the last year. All crimes together – excluding homicides – year-to-date crime rates are down 12.5 percent from last year.
“We are definitely continuing to trend down,” Braziel said.
The police department was able to bring back 35 laid off officers due to a grant waiver the department received in July.
One more grant request is pending, Braziel said, and he expects to have a result by the end of September or early October. If the city receives the second grant, it will restore another 35 officers to the police department.
“It’s a credit to the (police) department, and to the men and women on the front lines, so to speak, working every day and doing more with less,” Councilman Rob Fong told Braziel after hearing the report. “We obviously have very good people working on the force.”
Melissa Corker is a Staff Reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.