Crime in Ojai rises
By Lenny Roberts
The Ventura County Sheriff's Department's
Crime Analysis unit has released compiled information from 2002
crime reports, arrest reports, citations, field interviews and
calls for service within the city limits of Ojai, and the overall
numbers are up.
Law enforcement officials are careful to note that with the small
numbers to compare, increases or decreases in the crime rate
do not necessarily translate into serious changes.
Part I crimes are divided into two types: violent, which includes
homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, and property
crimes. In 2002, there were a reported 240 Part I crimes - an
increase of 63, or 35.6 percent when compared with 2001. The
crime rate-per-1,000 population was 30.28, an increase of 35
percent from the 2001 rate, which was 22.48 per 1,000 people.
The total number of Part I and Part II crimes reported was 901,
compared with 805 in 2001, with a crime-per-1,000 population
rate of 83.41, up from 79.75 the year before.
Breaking the crimes down, there were 22 reported violent crimes
last year, compared with 19 the year before. The good news is
that again, there were no homicides within the city limits, and
reported rapes remained the same. In one of the two reported
rapes, the suspect was known to the victim in one, and in the
other, the unknown suspect was at the victim's house where she
was hosting a party. Both cases were closed due to the victims'
requests of no prosecution.
One of the four reported robberies last year was reclassified
as a battery, and in two of the three cases, the victims were
approached by unknown suspects who demanded money. One victim
was at a gas station and the other was shopping. One suspect
displayed a knife, and the other threatened to have a gun, but
never showed it. In the final reported robbery, unknown suspects
entered the victim's residence at gunpoint, ransacked the home,
and stole cash and checks, according to the report.
The number of aggravated assaults reported last year increased
from 14 to 16. Of those reported, two involved deputies who were
involved in a high-speed traffic stop, where the suspects allegedly
rammed one deputy's patrol unit and brandished a replica firearm
at the other deputy. In eight of the cases, the victims knew
their alleged assailants. Of the remaining four assaults, one
involved an altercation over a racquetball game; another occurred
at a nightclub; another was when the victim reported being struck
by several subjects behind a grocery store; and the other was
a sexual assault by an unknown person.
There were 218 reported Part I property crimes in the city last
year, up from 158 in 2001, for a 37 percent increase, and the
crime-rate-per-1,000 residents jumped to 27.51 from 20.06.
Much of the increase can be attributed to petty thefts, which
rose from 84 in 2001 to 123 last year, vehicle burglaries, which
increased by 10 from the reported 7 in 2001, and residential
burglaries, which jumped from 14 to 24. Auto thefts decreased
from six to five; commercial burglaries dropped from 21 to 15,
but grand thefts, generally crimes that result in a loss greater
than $400, rose to 31 from the 25 reported in 2001.
Part II Nonviolent Crimes
In Part II, or nonviolent crimes, narcotics-related crimes increased
from 90 to 106; fraud crimes doubled to 28; forgeries rose from
13 to 17; and traffic arrests jumped from 96 to 128. Miscellaneous
alcohol-related arrests showed the biggest gain, from 38 to 63.
Nonviolent crimes showing decreases were simple assaults, from
62 to 49; arrests for driving under the influence, from 37 to
23; miscellaneous misdemeanor arrests, from 103 to 78; and simple
assaults, from 62 to 49.
Crimes not showing significant changes were possessions of stolen
property, felony and misdemeanor sex offenses, disorderly conducts
and vagrancy. There were no gambling, prostitution or bomb-related
arrests made during 2002.
Despite the hiring of a motorcycle officer and increased traffic
enforcement within the city, traffic accidents rose from 172
to 193, an increase that did not surprise Capt. Gary Pentis,
Ojai's chief of police.
"Generally with increased traffic enforcement in a problematic
city area, reductions in accident rates are commonly not seen
until after an 18- to 24-month period of directed education and
enforcement efforts," Pentis said.
Pentis explained some of the problematic areas where directed
enforcement has its greatest impact.
"For example, on Ojai Avenue at Country Club Drive, Maricopa
Highway from the intersection of Ojai Avenue through and past
the high school, Ojai Avenue at Montgomery Street, and residential
areas where cut-through traffic is attractive and time-saving.
"There are some areas of the city where enforcement alone
is not going to reduce accident rates until we can do something
about traffic design and traffic flow patterns."
There were 58 domestic incidents reported last year, up from
54 in 2001. Of those reported, only one involved the use of hands,
fists or feet as a weapon. No guns, knives or other weapons were
used in the reported domestic incidents.
There were 4,630 calls for service in the city last year, down
9 percent from the 4,705 in 2001. Of those calls, 341, or 7 percent,
were made at between 5 and 6 p.m. The most calls for service
were made on Saturdays, and the fewest number of calls were made
on Mondays. The busiest month for deputies patrolling the city
was July, when 440, or 10 percent of the calls, were made. Noncriminal
events led the calls for service, followed by property, disturbance
and alarm calls, respectively.
Although the number of felony juvenile arrests dropped from 94
to 86, there were 609 juvenile arrests for felony, misdemeanor
and delinquency the past year, up from 543 in 2001. Most of the
arrests, 512, were for misdemeanor offenses. By comparison, the
total number of juvenile arrests in 1997 was 452, and the number
has increased steadily in each year since. With 29 arrests last
year, the crime of choice of juveniles appears to be narcotics,
followed by thefts, 15, assaults, 11, and vandalism, 11.
"Narcotics arrests across the board have increased, and
this includes the area of juvenile substance abuse." Pentis
said. "In reality, juvenile narcotics use is higher than
these stats refect. These stats do not reflect all the nonarrest
methods of closure in juvenile use cases. In adult cases, no
one gets a free pass."
Ojaians and visitors did not fare well in the traffic citation
category, where 1,455 violations were recorded resulting in the
issuance of 1,228 citations. By comparison, there were 749 violations
in 2001. Of the 1,228 citations written last year, 618 were for
hazards, 84 were for seat belts or car seat violations, 84 were
for excessive speed, 11 were for right-of-way violations, and
658 were for other violations.
The number of field interview cards written was 627, a drop from
846 in 2001. Field interview cards are recorded when illegal
activity may be suspected without an immediate arrest or citation
issued to the subject in question. By comparison, there were
1,048 field interviews conducted in 1996, the most in the decade,
and 589 in 1994, the least.
The Ojai Valley News
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