The Yucaipa Police Department (YPD) gave its 2020 annual report, including crime statistics, to the city council on Monday, May 24. The report was reviewed and approved unanimously.

Yucaipa Police Chief James Williams introduced Sergeant Dan Whitten who presented the report.

“I’ll start with the good news up front,” said Whitten. “Once again we have a fantastic community and most other cities would really like to have crime stats as good as ours, as ours is a very safe community overall.”

The year brought some challenges. Whitten said that beginning the first quarter with the COVID pandemic, law enforcement everywhere had to rethink how to do its job. Responding to calls, officers had to wear full PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) which is outside its normal way of doing business. Also dealing with masks, interactions with people and how to communicate with people while wearing a mask while keeping the public and the officers safe was a concern.

“Our next challenges occurred in the middle of summer during the very end of May 30, 2020. Obviously, an arrest happened in another state that led to civil unrest around the country. Here in the city, June 1, we had an incident that occurred that led to some criminal investigations,” said Whitten.

Whitten referred to the peaceful protests, the Aug. 1,  demonstration with about 80 people came in from outside of town and were met by a couple of hundred of people from town. “That unfortunately turned into the street being taken over and an unlawful assembly having to be called,” he said. “It led to several arrests. Luckily the resources were in place. No super significant incident, no damage, no injuries but in the middle of 2020, that was one more thing to deal with.”

After the Apple Fire earlier in the year, on  Sept. 5, the El Dorado Fire began in El Dorado Ranch Park and quickly spread north and east into the San Bernardino National Forest, threatening residences in Yucaipa, Oak Glen, Cherry Valley, Mountain Home Village, Forest Falls and Angelus Oaks. The fire was not extinguished until Nov. 16, 2020, after burning over 22,000 acres, destroying 10 buildings, damaging six others and causing the death of U.S. Forest Service Firefighter Charles Morton. The El Dorado Fire Burn Scar remains a potential threat for mud and debris flows as the city deals with any sort of rain events, which Yucaipa Fire and YPD continue to monitor.

During 2020, the city of Yucaipa continued to see decreases in most crime categories as compared to previous years. Part I crimes (murder, manslaughter, sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson) decreased by approximately 10% compared to last year (1,012 to 909) and Part II crime (simple assaults, forgery/counterfeiting, embezzlement/fraud, receiving stolen property, weapon violations, prostitution, sex crimes, crimes against family/child, narcotic drug laws, liquor laws, drunkenness, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, gambling, DUI and moving traffic violations) increased by approximately 1% compared to last year (1,330 to 1,347).

“There is one number that we are paying attention to and that is the aggravated assault number. Department wide, we’re up about 25%. Now in 2019 the federal government took the cream of criminal threats … and they moved it from what was Part II into Part I crimes and so it became merged with aggravated as-sault. When I made this presentation last year, our aggravated assault numbers were up and that was because another crime had been added to it so they were sort of artificially elevated … county wide, there was about a 25% uptick so we’re paying attention,” said Whitten.

Whitten reassured the council that Yucaipa is a much safer community than all of the rest of the county at large. The Yucaipa emergency response times for 2020’s highest priority call (Priority E) was 4 minutes and 44 seconds. Most cities report if there is a 6 minute response time, that is a good number. “I’m proud to say we stay well below 5 minutes on a regular basis,” stated Whitten.

Crimes against persons, Yucaipa is down 18% in 2020. Crimes against property, Yucaipa is down 5%.

Whitten said that across the board, Yucaipa is down in crime in basically every category. Compared to surrounding cities, per thousand residents Yucaipa shows downward trends over the last five years. In comparison to surrounding jurisdictions, based on violent crime and property crime totals and the only way to compare other jurisdictions, Yucaipa at an overall number of 16.84 is lower than every city that our stats are compared with. In the case of most of those numbers, Yucaipa is low-er across the board. The only ones that were a little lower than Yucaipa were fairly smaller jurisdictions.

Due to COVID-19, school campuses were closed for most of 2020 and the School Resource Officer (SRO) continued to work with district officials to address safety and security issues. This included a significant increase in the number of home visits to address concerns with virtual classroom attendance, as well as student’s physical and mental well-being. Before the implementation of distance learning, the SRO made three Law and Public Safety presentations, attended the Mesa View Middle School career fair, several pre-school and elementary Stranger Danger presentations, attended two Prop 56 Tobacco Grant meetings and coordinated two Smart Start Teen Driver Education presentations.

He thanked the volunteers that work out of the Yucaipa station, “Their contributions to the community I can’t say enough about because they are out there doing it, just because they care about the community,” said Whitten.

In 2020, a $25,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety was received which allowed the department to staff additional operations that help solve what contributes to the major traffic collisions including stop sign violations or distracted driving, or pedestrian programs.

In 2020, there were 96 Automated License Plate Readers activations indicating stolen or wanted vehicles passed the cameras. In addition, Phase V of the city-wide fixed camera system has been completed. Like ALPR, this technology has been instrumental in solving crimes and resolving issues of fault in traffic collisions. Both systems are proving to be very useful.

Goals for 2021

Reinvigorating the volunteer programs by actively recruiting new members and providing opportunities for them to engage in the community. 2) Formally starting the Business Watch Program, be-ginning in Uptown. 3) Redeploy the upgraded radar trailer with the addition of an ALPR system purchased through Homeland Security grant and 4) Continue with the 2020 goal of coordinating the YPAC staff to develop active shooter and critical incident response plans.

City council thanked YPD for the report.

Councilman Justin Beaver also posed a few questions. “I couldn’t be happier that the crime rate is low in our city. You do an outstanding job but the best I can tell, because of COVID, from the report, proactive enforcement is down, citations are down, and adult bookings are down. Does maybe the criminal intelligence division have any thoughts on why crime is down?”

Williams answered, “I think that is a multi-part answer to that question. So part of it was just last year in COVID, you know the activity was just way down. We all remember the freeways being empty and people not wanting to go anywhere or call the police or have any interaction as Grant (Yucaipa Fire Chief) mentioned in his presentation. In the beginning of all of this nobody wanted to interact with anybody. Part of the issue is your demographic, the income of the population that you’re dealing with here. Dealing with the particular population is not a high crime area. Part of it is a geographic location.”

The police department’s annual report for 2020 was reviewed and approved, unanimously.

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