Crime

Rape, sexual assaults and burglary reports spike in SLO, crime data shows

If you witness a crime, here’s what to do

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.

San Luis Obispo saw a jump in residential burglaries and sexual assaults so far this year, but Police Department officials are hopeful that overall reports of the most serious crimes in the city will still represent a decrease from 2017.

Members of the Police Department released preliminary crime data for January through September in a presentation last week to members of the public last week, which included a tour of the city’s police station.

Official crime data for the year will be submitted early next year to the FBI for the federal agency’s annual report, typically released in late summer.

As of Oct. 1, San Luis Obispo recorded one murder, 40 rapes and sexual assaults, 24 robberies, 78 aggravated assaults, 188 burglaries, 1,078 larcenies (theft) and 53 motor vehicle thefts.

All totals include recorded incidents of alleged crimes, not necessarily crimes that have been proven in court.

Despite a huge spike in reported rapes and sexual assaults — 82 percent, which the city attributes to increased reporting — and burglaries, the number of aggravated assaults, thefts and motor vehicle thefts reported saw significant decreases from last year.

The city recorded a total of 1,485 reports of these most serious categories of crime in all of 2017. The city had recorded 1,462 of them as of Oct. 1 this year.

Here’s what the city’s data says.

Violent crime

The city recorded one murder in 2018. San Luis Obispo resident Kristen Marti, 26, was last seen alive Jan. 9, and her body was discovered in Prefumo Canyon in late March following a large-scale search of the area.

Kristen Marti
Kristen Marti was last seen alive on Jan. 9, 2018, but her body was not found until more than two months later, in a creek in the Prefumo Canyon area of San Luis Obispo.

Robert William Koehler, 36, is accused of killing Marti with a knife in a vehicle parked in Prefumo Canyon.

Koehler remains in San Luis Obispo County Jail, where he’s being held without bail.

He’s scheduled to stand trial in May.

The city reported no murders in 2017, according to FBI crime data.

There were 40 reported rapes and sexual assaults in the city so far in 2018, well above the 22 reported all of last year. The number of reported rapes and sexual assaults in 2017 was a dramatic decrease from the 39 reported in 2016.

Despite those numbers, the department says sexual assault is the city’s “most under-reported crime,” and more than 90 percent of victims on college campuses do not report them.

According to city data, 53 percent of sexual assault victims were between the ages of 17 and 25, approximately 23 percent of the victims were Cal Poly or Cuesta students and half wanted officers to discontinue their investigations.

Of the 16 cases sent to the county District Attorney’s Office for review, prosecutors only filed charges in seven of them.

The department noted that 40 percent of all sexual assault victims were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

But the department also notes it believes a cultural shift toward acceptance and understanding has driven an increase in victims reporting their assault; the victims advocate group RISE SLO reports a 220 percent increase in crisis line calls from sexual assault survivors this year.

Police Capt. Jeff Smith said Wednesday that the #MeToo movement appears to have had a positive impact on survivors of sexual assault who may now be seeing the network of support locally.

The 24 reported robberies are also up 60 percent so far this year from last last year (15). There were 21 reported robberies in 2016.

The department says that of the robberies so far this year, 55 percent of them were incidents of shoplifting gone bad. According to the data, had shoplifting-gone-bad incidents not been counted as robbery, there would have been a 7 percent decrease in robberies this year.

There was a 13 percent drop in aggravated assaults, from 90 in 2017 to 78 so far this year.

Property crimes

Burglaries accounted for the only increase among property crimes, with this year’s 188 burglaries so far representing a 44 percent increase over last year’s 131 burglaries.

Smith said residential burglaries continue to be a problem for the city, where there’s been an average of 111 home burglaries every year for the past five years.

So far this year, the city has seen more than a 56 percent increase in residential burglaries over 2017, with 77 percent of those being “no force” burglaries.

Electronic devices accounted for 43 percent of items stolen in 2018.

But Smith said the department is attributing much of those numbers to crimes of opportunity, as well as burglary “crews” from out of the area. Smith said this year officers have arrested 14 suspected burglars from outside the city allegedly responsible for 27 residential burglaries.

The department — notably Chief Deanna Cantrell’s on Twitter — has made a concerted effort to raise awareness about crimes of opportunity and what residents can do to prevent many of the thefts of property.

“I think that for the most part, our citizens feel that they live in a relatively safe community,” Smith said. “With that safety may come a false sense of security when it comes to things like locking doors ... or leaving electronic items in plain view.”

Reported larcenies — thefts of personal property not considered robberies or burglaries, such as embezzlement or fraud — decreased 6 percent so far this year, with 1,078 reports over last year’s 1,152 reports. But motor vehicle thefts saw the largest decrease — 29 percent — with 53 reports this year over 75 last year.

Citizens are legally allowed to arrest someone if they witness that person commit a crime. But San Luis Obispo police Capt. Jeff Smith says it can put you at risk in many cases. Here's what you need to know.

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