Reports of violent and property crime in Brentwood decreased in 2020, while incidences of aggravated assault and rape saw an increase, according to newly released police department statistics.
Violent crime incidents dropped 11.5%, while property crimes dipped 3.2%, with robberies, arson, simple assaults, residential burglaries and thefts all declining.
“Crime is down, but it was an anomaly year with COVID,” said Brentwood Police Chief Tom Hansen, who noted that due to COVID restrictions and shelter-in-place orders, the department wasn’t able to implement as many preemptive crime protocols as in years past.
A handful of other department statistics appeared to be skewed by 2020’s stay-at-home order and a departmental decision to scale back its proactive activity to prevent the spread of COVID.
The force dealt with 567 fewer calls for service (32,200 total), made 566 fewer arrests (936 total), wrote 4,777 fewer citations (3,822 total) and initiated 8,590 fewer vehicle stops (13,546 total).
But its response time remained close to average, increasing 3 seconds (4 minutes, 28 seconds total) to respond to high-priority calls and 7 seconds shorter (5 minutes, 37 seconds total) for less serious calls.
Total reported violent crime incidents – including murder, rape, robbery, arson and assaults – dropped 11.5%, or 64 incidents, to 494 total. Simple assaults decreased more than any other violent crime category, dropping by 62 incidents to 320 total. “Simple assault” is a term used when a battery is committed against a person, but the incident did not lead to serious bodily injury and a deadly weapon was not used.
Among other violent crimes, robberies dropped by 20, to 47. Arson dipped by five, to five total.
Despite the overall double-digit violent crime decrease, aggravated assaults (which include the use of weapons or result in great bodily injury) rose, by eight, to 91. There was one murder — now solved — compared to zero the previous year.
Rapes, however, nearly doubled, climbing by 14, to 30.
Hansen noted that a change in reporting requirements contributed to the rape category increase.
“Without going into too much detail, there are reporting requirements that changed,” Hansen said. “I did go in to make sure we didn’t have serial rapists or stranger rapists.”
While violent crime dipped by 11.5%, property crime, including thefts, auto thefts, residential and nonresidential burglaries, dropped 3.2%, or 43 total incidents, to 1,292.
Included was a 118-incident drop in thefts, to 977, and a 15-case residential burglary drop, to 43.
Nonresidential burglaries jumped by 60, to 144, and auto thefts jumped by 30, to 128.
“People were at home more during the pandemic,” said Hansen, alluding to the 15-case residential burglary drop. “Our nonresidential burglaries were up by 60. I would say they were up due to people not being at work.”
Although Brentwood crime was generally down in 2020, Hansen admitted that his department needs to improve its clearance rates, which showed that the department cleared a below-FBI-national-average number of rapes, assaults, thefts and auto thefts.
The force cleared only 30% of rapes (FBI average of 34%), 46% of assaults (FBI average of 57%), 11% of thefts (compared to the FBI’s 21% average) and 7% of auto thefts, short of the FBI average of 14
However, the department did meet the FBI’s clearance figures for murder, burglary, robbery and arson, with the force clearing its one murder, 14% of burglaries, 36% of robberies and 40% of arsons.
“(Clearance rates are) something that we continue to struggle with over the past years,” Hansen said. “I am very proud of my officers for the amount of arrests they made out there, but sometimes, on our cold cases, I would like to see an increase and some closures in solving those crimes.”
The department’s overall performance received high marks from city leaders.
“I get a lot of calls, and nobody ever complains about the police department, which is really nice,” said Councilmember Jovita Mendoza.
Fellow Councilmember Karen Rarey added that a recent council decision to allow the department to hire five additional officers should benefit the community.
The additional officers are expected to allow the force to break the city into five coverage areas, rather than four — increasing the number of available officers and improving response times.
“It’s only going to get better with the fifth beat on there,” Rarey said of the statistics. “I cannot wait to see next year’s numbers.”