Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson shared the Turlock Police Department’s first quarter review at the Turlock City Council meeting Tuesday, giving an update on crime rates, recruitment, and average call response times.
Jackson delivered the report, which covered from Jan. 1 to the end of March 2014 explaining that the department is currently allocated 112 full-time staff members, 106 of which are filled, explaining why they are recruiting and why overtime is up due to understaffing.
“As of now, we’re currently trying to fill those positions – 5 of those are police officers and one is a dispatcher and we’re actively recruiting for both positions,” said Jackson, adding that he is happy with the recruitment process as they are considering academy graduates, non-graduates, and lateral officers at other state agencies.
As for calls for service times, Jackson was initially disappointed with the numbers he saw, but then realized that the data result was made in error due to an old software system.
“We are struggling a little bit with getting accurate numbers as far as response times,” said Jackson. “I was a little troubled seeing that the priority one calls was over eight minutes, so we looked into that and we found that with our report management system and our CAT systems, which is our dispatch system, we’re having some anomalies.”
For example, Jackson explained, the system reported that one call was shown on hold for three days, which was not actually the case.
“Our software program’s pretty old – it’s about 20 years old,” said Jackson. “So if you look at the numbers there’s 169 of them I think on there, so one call alone would greatly skew the response time. So in order for us to remedy that, we’d have to go through each individual call and audit it and I didn’t feel that was a wise use of staff time. So don’t be too startled with the high numbers as far as eight minutes to a priority one call – it’s much less than that.”
According to Jackson, the department could not give an accurate number on the call wait times without “spending a lot of staff time to come up with those numbers.” No word was given on if the outdated software will be replaced.
Because Jackson brought before the council two sets of data, he was able to compare the fluctuations the department sees in crimes over short periods of time.
As of the end of March, according to the report, crime was up 10 percent, but by end of May crime was only up three percent.
“I would prefer it to be a negative number which we’ve seen over the years,” said Jackson. “And you’ve heard me talk about reasons why; I still think it has a lot to do with prison realignment.”
Statistics showed a 20 percent increase in larceny alone (larceny being a theft other than robbery or burglary) so that, as Jackson said, “petty theft is skewing our numbers.”
In order to pursue a decrease in crime, Jackson explained that a lot of it will be crime prevention, which the department will focus on over the next few months.
A 10 percent increase in overtime usage was also shown department-wide due to a 22 percent increase in patrol because of the current staffing shortages. However, Jackson explained, TPD will still be well within budget this year.
Troubling to Jackson though was the consistent increase shown in more officers having to use force in arrests. Councilmember Steven Nascimento was interested to hear the chief’s opinion on the increase in use of force. Jackson equated the increase with “impaired judgment due to heavy alcohol use,” and explained that, with the nightclub atmosphere across the street from City Hall, 15 assaults were called in resulting in 10 arrests.
Arrests, Jackson said, take a great deal of time for officers to complete, removing them from their “free time” to help with other calls. Arresting someone takes about three to five hours, according to Jackson, from driving to the scene, to booking, to filling out the report. Because of this, Jackson feels there are better ways of dealing with public intoxication than arrest – namely not letting the over-intoxication occur in the first place. He estimated that the department has made close to 30 foot patrols at the bar across from City Hall just since January in order to prevent assaults from occurring. But when a patrol is not there and a call is made officers “have to come in and provide reasonableness” to the unreasonable.
Regarding collisions, the statistics showed no intersection was reported to have more than one accident so far this year, but after the department secures in court the ability to use radar, Jackson believes the number of collisions will go down.
Volunteers of the department were also praised for their dedication to the city, reportedly covering 65 shifts, giving 1500 hours of service, and responding to 32 emergency calls and seven special events for as Jackson highlighted “no pay” just out of, “the goodness of their hearts.”
As a result of dealing with many Denair Park issues, the department began encouraging the use of the website Nextdoor.com in the fall. As Jackson explained it, Nextdoor is a kind of “Facebook for neighborhoods” that acts as an online, community-led, neighborhood watch system..
So far, Jackson estimated that about 75 percent of Turlock neighborhoods are using the site with 36 communities already signed up. Jackson hopes to have all of Turlock using the site, as he sees it as step to preventative measures and the site is simple to sign up for an use.