SLO was experiencing an 'unprecedented increase in crime.' That changed in 2017

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.
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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

Overall crime in San Luis Obispo decreased by 13 percent in 2017, according to the SLO Police Department, with a 2 percent drop in violent crime and 14 percent decline in property crime.

City officials said in a Tuesday announcement at the City Council meeting that the stats are encouraging because the city "experienced an unprecedented increase in crime since 2015" (21 percent from 2014 to 2015). That trend continued in 2016 (rising 11 percent from 2015 to 2016).

The city cited policing strategies and efforts to collaborate with community members and groups to reduce crime.

"SLOPD knows we must partner with the community to resolve those challenges," city officials stated in a report. "We cannot reduce crime without a strong relationship with our community who are willing to support our efforts and help us prevent crime by reporting and engaging in neighborhood wellness."

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The number of reports processed went from 8,908 in 2016 to 8,073 in 2017.

Between 2016 and 2017, violent crime dipped from 177 to 173 incidents, and property crimes dropped from 989 to 848; thefts from vehicles decreased from 673 to 566; aggravated assaulted dipped from 118 to 111, while general theft dropped from 1,057 to 950.

However, rapes went up slightly from 38 to 39 in a year. No homicides occurred either year in the city.

SLOPD also hired a part-time crime analyst who researched high-crime locations and high-rate offenders to provide data that helped inform officers prevent incidents.

"The application of data-driven strategies, such as hotspot policing, problem-oriented policing, and intelligence-led policing, work as we have witnessed in 2017," the report stated.

The city also cited its newly created group called PACT (Police and Community Together), representing a committed and diverse group of "community members/advocates that partner with law enforcement to affect positive social change through dialogue, education and understanding."

PACT has representation from demographic groups representing the Jewish, black, Latino, Muslim, LGBTQ, interfaith, student and homeless/mentally ill communities, according to the city.

"The liaisons connect with and learn about their respective communities, then serve as a conduit between the police department and the community," the city said.

Also, in January 2017, the SLOPD launched a community program called PEACE (Policing Education And Community Engagement), designed to educate the community about policing practices, policies and challenges.

Four presentations during the year featured the following topics: policing a community, use of force, body cameras and mental health: police and community resources.

There was an increase in calls received regarding adverse homeless behavior in the downtown area, according to the report. Calls for service related to homeless rose from 6,285 (17 percent of all calls) in 2016 to 7,102 (19 percent) last year.

"Many of these behaviors can be attributed to substance abuse, mental illness or a combination of both," the city wrote.

The city has worked with County Mental Health to add a full-time mental health specialist to complement other resources dedicated to problems associated with homeless. The city has a goal of filling the position this month.

"We are very excited to add the mental health position to our Community Action Team and believe it will greatly assist our agency in addressing some of the needs within our community," city officials stated.

The decrease comes as the police department is down five positions due to retirements, resignations and injuries, jobs it's in the process of filling.

The workload caused by the vacant positions was handled through temporary reassignment of officers in special assignments, according to the city.

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