Violent crimes in the city of Hemet are down from 2016 with some reduction in property crime, partially due to new police department hires and equipment made possible through Measure U funding, Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown said.
Brown, appearing before the Hemet City Council during a workshop Tuesday, Oct. 10, showed that the new officers recently hired have helped reduce the overall violent crime rate from 313 incidents from January to June last year down to 206 incidents from January to June this year. The only exception was that the number of homicides went from one in 2016 to three this year to date, Brown said. Violent crimes include homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
The Hemet Police Department, using authorized funding from expected Measure U sales tax revenue coming to the city, has hired one new sergeant in charge of reporting of community services and the community safety unit, 14 police officers and two dispatchers in the past six months. Applicants for three additional positions are pending with one lieutenant and two community services officers still open. The department authorized 21 police department positions in total for the first phase of the Measure U public safety expenditures plan, Brown said.
“We are almost 100 percent on the Measure U implementation plan,” Brown said and possibly ahead of schedule. He said the first phase of the Measure U public safety plan that is using the 1 percent sales tax plan approved by Hemet voters in November 2016 and a $10,000 lateral signing bonus approved by the council to recruit new officers has been highly successful.
“We have found some great candidates out there,” Brown said.
The department’s plan was to recruit half the new officers with experience from other police and sheriff’s departments and to recruit half from entry-level officers recently out of the academy. In the chief’s video presentation to the council, he showed the eight laterally hired police officers had at total 86 years street experience and the seven entry-level officers hired were in the top one-third of their academy classes.
The new hires have brought the Hemet Police Departments number of sworn employees up to 78 with four still in the police academy.
The impact of the new police officers getting out on the streets of Hemet, Brown said, has brought the number of arrests up 24 percent, calls for service down 2 percent, vandalism calls down 2 percent, trespass calls down 26 percent and prostitution calls down 29 percent.
While the violent crime statistics are down considerably since Measure U went into effect, the property crime statistics are not as favorable.
“We are working on those,” Brown said.
The statistics show that property crimes, including burglary, auto theft and theft, are down only 5 percent since 2016 going from 1,706 cases to 1,617 cases. Burglary is up 3 percent, from 390 cases to 400 cases, and auto theft is up 2 percent, from 254 incidents to 265incidents, in the city to date. Theft, however, is down 10 percent going from 1,062 cases in 2016 to 852 cases to date.
Trespassing, Brown said, remains a problem with the homeless population in the city. He said the downturn so far in city trespassing calls is attributable to “more aggressive enforcement and pressure on the homeless population.” Two of the newer officers hired will be assigned to work with the homeless issue along with other officers.
The council was generally pleased with the report but had questions.
Councilman Russ Brown asked about the rising number of traffic accidents in the city, suggesting the department think about purchasing license plate readers that help officers quickly identify vehicle drivers violating traffic rules. Brown said they are effective but “very expensive.”
Brown said more officers are being assigned to traffic enforcement, and motor officers will soon be trained and assigned to the department’s four motorcycles. He said they also are planning to use community service officers to handle traffic calls, relieving other patrol officers of those duties.
Interim City Manager Allen Parker asked if the department planned to put bumper stickers on the new police cars and emergency vehicles saying they were in service because of Measure U funds. Chief Brown said they were in the process of doing that to let residents know the funds raised through the increased city sales tax are being used as designated – for public safety.
City Clerk Sarah McComas told council they have four applications to fill a vacant seat left on the Measure U Oversight Committee and will be holding interviews of the applicants. The Measure U Oversight Committee was formed to oversee how the Measure U sales tax dollars are spent for the city’s public safety departments. The council announced it will be interviewing the candidates in public session, Nov. 24.