BAY POINT -- In a community that has often been associated with violence, overall crime fell last year, and -- for the first time in five years -- there were no homicides.
Last year, there were 436 reported violent and property crimes, an 11 percent drop from 2012, which officials attribute partly to the relaunching of a dormant neighborhood watch program and increased community policing efforts.
"Good things are happening in Bay Point," said Lt. Paul O'Mary, who took over last year as commander of the Contra Costa County Sheriff Office's Muir station, which serves Bay Point and the I-680 corridor north of Pleasant Hill.
A major factor in having no homicides last year in this unincorporated community of 22,000 was the successful prosecution of members of a Bay Point gang, according to O'Mary. Another factor in reducing crime is that several foreclosed homes have been boarded up by banks in Bay Point, which has some of the Bay Area's highest poverty and unemployment rates.
"It's the broken window syndrome," O'Mary said, referring to the concept that crime is more likely to happen in neighborhoods where things like broken windows, littering and blight are overlooked. "The banks got on board with us."
Also helping is a Habitat for Humanity program that has purchased and renovated several foreclosed homes in Bay Point, he said.
The relaunched neighborhood watch program is now more organized and informative and works more closely with the Bay Point Municipal Advisory Council's neighborhood committee, O'Mary said.
The 116 residential burglaries reported in 2013 represented a 37 percent drop from the year before. There were 27 reports of assault with a deadly weapon, down 28 percent, and the lowest in five years.
"It's very good news for the community," said Debra Mason, Bay Point MAC chair. "We think it's because we are getting such good community officers and they are starting the neighborhood watch again."
Still, not all crime went down. Strong-arm robberies rose by 80 percent to 18 in 2013 and armed robberies increased by 17 percent to 20. O'Mary said the higher numbers reflect bilingual outreach efforts to connect with Spanish-speaking undocumented immigrants to encourage them to report crimes.
"I feel those numbers were there in 2012. Suspects know they are undocumented and (reluctant) to come to the police," he said.
To overcome that reluctance, resident Deputy Paul Briggs is "reaching out to those neighborhoods that have undocumented (immigrants) and letting them know we are here" and that their immigration status will not be reported, O'Mary said.
"An aggressive community policing policy, spearheaded by the resident deputy (funded by the Keller Canyon Landfill Mitigation Fund), is starting to show up in lower crime stats, more citizen participation and more active, involved community," Supervisor Federal Glover, who grew up in nearby Pittsburg, said in a statement.
"Rightly or wrongly, people tend to associate crime with a community's low-median income. The improved crime statistics disprove that belief for Bay Point," Glover said. "An increase in Neighborhood Watch groups coupled with a no-nonsense approach to potential lawbreaking individuals and situations, is producing positive results. The Sheriff's Office and its deputies deserve all the credit for this outcome."
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.
Overall reported crimes 493
Residential burglary 185
Armed robbery 17
Strong-arm robbery 10
Assault with a deadly weapon 38
Sexual assault 3
Overall reported crimes 436
Residential burglary 116
Armed robbery 20
Strong-arm robbery 18
Assault with a deadly weapon 27
Sexual assault 3