WALNUT CREEK -- After three years of decline, serious crime here took a slight uptick in 2012 -- and the police chief fears things may get worse before they get better.
Chief Joel Bryden told the City Council last week the rise in crime last year was small, but that his department is understaffed, and response times and coverage have been affected by that.
He wasn't the only one concerned. The council chambers were crowded last week with some off-duty police officers in attendance and several concerned residents calling for more patrols and school resource officers.
Some residents expressed concerns about break-ins in their neighborhoods. One Rossmoor resident told the council that she and her neighbors felt their neighborhood needed an increase in police patrols.
Citywide, the vast majority of crimes committed in 2012 were basic thefts, accounting for 1,468 out of 2,157 of what the police label "Part 1" crimes. Other Part 1 crimes, such as robberies, burglaries and auto thefts, were up slightly in Walnut Creek in 2012 from the previous year. There were 63 aggravated assaults, compared with 52 in 2011. There was also one homicide, and three rapes in Walnut Creek in 2012.
In the "Part 2" category, one notable increase came in fraud and identity thefts. Since 2007, this category of crime has gone up every year in Walnut Creek. In 2007, there were 177 cases of fraud or identity theft. Last year, there were 348.
Bryden said this is partly due to his department's policy of vigorously pursuing identity theft cases.
There was also a sharp uptick in juvenile offenses.
Bryden attributed a significant decrease in narcotics offenses to his officers proactive contacting of narcotics users.
The 420 DUI arrests were the most in department history. Bryden commended Officer Brian Duncan for making 90 DUI arrests, a one-year record for the department.
Bryden hopes that in 2013 his department will be able to fill some open positions. Injuries and military leave have forced the department to eliminate several programs. Bryden hopes that if the department is at full strength, they will be able to staff motorcycle patrol, school resource programs, and the downtown policing team.
After Bryden's dire predictions about a possible spike in crime coming, Mayor Cindy Silva asked what the community could do to help. Bryden said residents should start more Neighborhood Watch programs.
"It's a tremendous way to help prevent property crime," Bryden said.
Follow Patrick Brown on twitter at twitter.com/PatrickBrown33.