PIEDMONT -- Crime is down in the city for 2013, police Chief Rikki Goede reported to the City Council at its Monday meeting.
In her year-end crime report, Goede noted that crimes overall decreased 11 percent from 2012, with 353 crimes reported in 2012 compared with 317 for 2013. Robberies were up, however, with 13 reported for last year compared to six for 2012. Four of the robberies took place in the Grand Avenue area with victims having smartphones, purses, wallets or jewelry snatched from them. There also were four home-invasion robberies in early 2013.
Street robberies are a growing national trend, Goede said. Oakland has seen a 70 percent increase in these types of crimes, particularly from people who are not paying attention while they walk, heads down on their smartphones.
A bill has been introduced in the state Senate in February that would require manufacturers of electronic devices to have systems in place that would allow the devices to be quickly disabled if stolen. If it passes, it would take effect in January 2015.
Assaults were down from 14 in 2012 to 10 last year. Burglaries also were down, with 116 last year compared to 135 in 2012. Motor vehicle thefts were up slightly, with 50 last year compared to 47 in 2012. Thefts were also down with 126 last year and 151 for 2012.
The installation of license plate readers, formation of more Neighborhood Watch groups and more officers on the Piedmont police force have all taken a bite out of crime, Goede said.
Residents can visit the department's website at www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/police to view a map of crime incidents and locations.
Piedmonters overwhelmingly approved -- with 82.62 percent of the vote -- to refinance the Public Employees Retirement System "side fund" at the Feb. 4 election to save the city money. There are two PERS side fund obligations: $2,311,901 with seven years remaining, and $5,532,124 with nine years remaining. Both are currently repaid at a 7.5 percent rate.
The city will shop for a much lower rate, possibly 3 percent, for the refinance. Former Mayor John Chiang, speaking now as a private citizen, urged the council to seek a private placement with a six-year term, which the council supported.
"There would be less volatility" with this option, Chiang said.
The council also approved spending $798,422 for a new 75-foot ladder truck for the fire department to replace a 25-year-old 65-foot ladder truck.
Fire Chief Bud McLaren said obtaining parts for their aging ladder truck was difficult. The money for purchase was set aside in the equipment replacement fund.
The council also approved spending $134,238 for preparation of construction documents for revamping the heavily used Hampton field, with new Councilman Tim Rood voting no. Where the money would come from for the $1.9 million project is yet to be determined.
The Hampton Field master plan was approved by the council in 2008.
Hampton Field suffers from serious drainage problems that thwart game play for youth sports, needs turf replacement, resurfacing of its tennis courts and other upgrades.