The San Luis Obispo Police Department faces a rising number of calls for service while working in a building that is at the end of its lifespan.
On Thursday, residents attended a meeting hosted by the police.
New crime statistics show overall crime is on a downward trend in the city, but both property and violent crime have increased. SLO averages 111 burglaries per year over the last five.
The reporting shows a 56 percent increase in residential burglaries; 77 percent is considered “no forced entry” meaning people are not locking their doors on homes and cars.
A majority of items stolen are electronics. Police have arrested 14 suspects in connection with 27 different cases. Statistics show 43 percent of those crimes have occurred in the Cal Poly, Foothill Blvd. area.
Police recommend writing down serial numbers of the electronics in order to better identify them if recovered.
The statistics also show an increase in sexual assault cases. Police attribute the rise due in part to victims being encouraged to come forward more thanks to the #MeToo movement. 53 percent of the victims involved in the cases are 17 to 25 years old. But police say once the case is investigated, 50 percent of victims want it discontinued.
A total of 16 cases have been sent to the district attorney’s office, and nine were rejected.
The homeless population is declining, down to 411 from 750 in 2014, but calls for service on them is increasing. 30 percent of calls, 1,509, are in the downtown area.
Police say it has proven to be a challenging year. Staff hasn’t increased, but turnover has. With budget available to have 59 sworn personnel, the department is currently short on several positions including a narcotic officer, one special enforcement officer, one community action teammate, and one traffic officer. The increase in calls has forced bike officers to be pulled to other shifts.
Incoming cannabis business will likely add to the calls for service, Police Chief Deanna Cantrell said. “It will be interesting to see what happens.” The city is working with police to prepare for businesses opening up in 2019.
Capt. Jeff Smith says the department will work to build up staff in 2019, but Chief Cantrell says the city could be forced to add personnel if the calls for service increase continues at its current rate.
The department is looking for ways to become more efficient. It has a crime analyst to help achieve it. In the coming months, police will look to roll out an online reporting service to assist. Residents would be able to report smaller crimes, such as vandalism and theft, that don’t include a suspect description or isn’t in progress.
The San Luis Obispo Police Department is also working on a program to register residents’ outdoor surveillance cameras. It would help assist in crime reports. Police could refer to the map and request video from the owner if a crime may have occurred in the same area to help in the investigation.
Work has begun on a new police headquarters. The current building is at the end of its lifespan and police say there is a laundry list of problems. It has poor electrical wiring, isn’t ADA compliant or up to earthquake standards. It has poor parking availability, lacks necessary storage, and sports outdated security.
“It’s something that’s needed,” said Smith. “We encourage the public to come, talk to us about it. It’s a project we’re moving forward on and we’re excited. Hopefully we can find a way to service our community at the high level but also have the infrastructure the police department needs to function properly.”
The plan is still in its infancy. City Council will hear a presentation on the topic Feb. 5.