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We’re happy for the dull police logs

By: Carol Feineman, editor
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Our police logs are usually mild. There are the usual driving while under the influence, graffiti and suspicion of outstanding misdemeanor warrant entries. But nothing big usually jumps out. When many residents pleaded with City Council to spare public-safety staff from budget cuts at a meeting a year ago, one resident even called attention to our police logs, saying nothing major appeared in the logs. The community member was happy, though, that the logs were so dull. He credited the Lincoln Police Department for keeping the city quiet. Lincoln was even named the safest city in Placer County in 2009, under former Police Chief Brian Vizzusi’s leadership, for the second consecutive year. Comparing statistics from the California Department of Justice for Lincoln with those of other Placer County cities, the Lincoln Police Department determined Lincoln’s crime rate in 2008 to be 14 per 1,000 residents, according to the former police chief last August. And while the 2009 figures are still being compiled, Lincoln acting Police Chief Paul Shelgren doesn’t anticipate any rate increases for that year. Since January 2009, however, more shocking crime stories have made it to the front of The Lincoln News Messenger, starting with a Lincoln woman ripping another woman’s ear off in a fight at Dillian’s Bar & Grill. Also making it to the front page were two stabbings, one in the Teal Hollow area on Aug. 18 and another on Nov. 22 at the Joiner Express Mart. In both cases, Lincoln police reported the stabbing victims knew the suspect. There was also an October kidnapping of three teenagers from a home off Fifth Street. Four suspects were booked into Placer County Jail for kidnapping, conspiracy, false imprisonment and battery. A preliminary investigation by Lincoln Police indicated that the teens were kidnapped because the suspects believed they stole medical marijuana plants from one of the suspects. And a Feb. 14 adult kidnapping, centering around the Joiner Parkway area, is still under investigation. Then there’s the latest doozy, the alleged kidnapping and molestation by a Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy of a 13-year-old Sacramento girl at the Holiday Inn Express. The deputy, arrested at his San Jose home on March 2, pleaded not guilty March 4 in a Placer County courthouse. Since these crime stories receive the most hits (we’re talking hundreds, if not a thousand-plus on our Web site at lincolnnewsmessenger.com), I’d say the public is definitely interested in what’s going on here crime wise. But should residents worry that Lincoln is becoming the site of more serious incidents? No, according to the Lincoln acting police chief. “There hasn’t been a rise in more serious crimes over the last three years but they are becoming more complex,” Shelgren said. “Our investigations are getting more complex with more dynamics to them. But we haven’t seen a drastic rise in these crimes.” That means the majority of Lincoln’s detectives are working almost 100 percent of the time on crimes against a person and not on crimes against property, according to Shelgren. Considering that five sworn officers lost their jobs due to last year’s budget layoffs and a retiring officer’s position wasn’t filled, it’s not surprising. “Losing six officers, we can’t do what we did before , which was being proactive,” Shelgren said. “It has limited our ability. A lot of times, we have to be reactive instead of being proactive. We used to have four or five officers on the streets during a shift and now we have three on the streets.” So Shelgren asks residents, now more than ever, to be aware of their surroundings and call police dispatch when something looks wrong. “A patrol officer can drive by your neighborhood and see a subject, who looks ordinary,” he said. “But a resident might see a person or vehicle that doesn’t belong there. If it’s out of the ordinary, let us know.” With only 28 sworn officers taking care of about 38,000 residents, the public also has to take a more active role in public safety. Lincoln’s police staff is understaffed, according to figures from Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler, who is the California Police Chiefs Association’s past president and communications chairman. “The national average is 2 per 1,000 so it would be 76,” Steckler e-mailed Tuesday. “California’s average is closer to 1.5, which would then be 57. With the economy, many cities are running at 1 per thousand or less. In Fremont, we are at .83 per thousand.” Those numbers are inclusive of all sworn personnel, from the chief down to the newest officer. Since Lincoln currently has only 28 sworn officers, it makes sense that residents have to be more observant. “Everyone has to do their part for their own personal safety,” Shelgren added. “That includes calling us. Many people think they’ll be considered dumb to call. But whenever you have a question, call us, whether it’s 4 a.m. or 4 p.m. Let us help you.” The Lincoln Police dispatch number is 645-4040.