Reports of Crime Fell in 2018, Police Chief Says

Statistics indicate San Marino experienced an overall decrease in crime last year, including significant drops in the number of residential and commercial burglaries from the previous year.
According to the 2018 crime stats prepared by Police Chief John Incontro, the San Marino Police Department had 84 reports of burglary in 2018, down from 125 in 2017. Of those 84 burglaries, 76 were residential and eight were commercial.
There were an additional 20 reports of attempted burglary in 2018, down from 32 in 2017. Incontro attributed the statistical improvement to a number of factors.
“We’ve got a better partnership to the community,” he said in a phone interview. “Our outreach and engagement with the community is a lot better than it has been. We’ve been running special details. We’ve been using outside resources, including specialized task forces from the [Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department]. Our detectives are doing fantastic work, taking the lead in cases and really digging down to solve some crimes. And we’re probably a little lucky, too.”
Incontro presented the statistics Monday night to the city Public Safety Commission and will also show them to the City Council on Friday.
The figures represent reports of crimes to the police and do not address the number of cases in which authorities filed charges.
There were slight increases in a handful of crimes in 2018, all categories with already extremely low occurrence rates in San Marino. There were two reported robberies (up from one in 2017), three reported arsons (compared with none in 2017) and 16 reports of aggravated assault (up from 15 in 2017).
There also was one report of rape last year — the first since 2015 — but Incontro noted the report was deemed to be unfounded and no charges were filed. Nine of the aggravated assaults were instances of alleged domestic violence and each resulted in an arrest, he added.
In total, there were 228 significant crimes reported in 2018, down from the 279 reported
in 2017. Incontro said he believed the public presence of patrol officers has helped to dissuade potential criminals, whether those officers are out responding to more calls from residents or more actively stopping motorists for traffic infractions or suspicious activity.
“Most of the other agencies have seen some decrease in burglaries as well,” Incontro added. “For them, like us, a suspect today who is involved in a crime in San Marino may have been involved in a crime somewhere in South Pasadena or Arcadia or Simi Valley, somewhere in the region. We’ve worked with other agencies for a multiple-jurisdiction prosecution of a suspect, and that’s been a big help for us.”
This year, Incontro said his department will focus on education to prevent thefts from vehicles, which often happen when thieves break through windows or doors. However, too many happen when vehicles are left unlocked, he said.
“Roughly 50 of those crimes [in 2018] could have been impacted if the owners of the vehicles had removed their property and locked their vehicles,” Incontro said. “A lot of those suspects who are involved in thefts from a vehicle are opportunists. They may be walking down a street or through a neighborhood seeing if a vehicle might be unlocked. Reducing these crimes of opportunity and working with neighbors, and together, is going to help reduce crimes.”
For 2019, SMPD has its obvious challenges. The city’s public safety tax, which generates more than $3 million annually to fund the police and fire departments, is up for renewal. Dr. Steven Huang, the mayor, also has directed all city departments to shave their budgets by 10% without cutting personnel.
Asked what else might serve as a challenge this year, Incontro mentioned the retaining of staff, some of which has to do with incentives, though national issues affecting law enforcement also are a factor.
“Our biggest thing is retention and recruiting new officers,” he said. “We’re not the only ones in policing who have challenges in recruitment and retention. Some agencies are doing OK, but a lot of L.A. departments are really struggling with that.
“So far this year alone, we’ve lost five officers to being shot across the country,” he added, “and there are still some questions as to how officers handle themselves.”
That being said, Incontro emphasized that San Marino’s residents and officials do more than their part to show support and gratitude to his department and officers.
“That’s a very positive thing that some communities just don’t have,” he said.

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