The statistic elicited audible gasps in the room.
That’s how much sexual assaults are up citywide this year, Garden Grove PD Lt. Thomas DaRé told a group of residents last week at a Zone 7 meeting of the West Garden Grove Neighborhood Watch.
Year to date, there have been 20 reported sexual assaults, compared to three last year, DaRé said.
The lieutenant didn’t drop by the meeting on Thursday, July 23 to shock or scare residents, but to assure them that the police are staying on top of things as Garden Grove, like other cities throughout Orange County, is starting to see the effects of Prop. 47, the ballot initiative California voters approved in November.
That new law reduced most nonviolent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, slashing inmate populations in prisons and jails throughout the state — but leading to increases in crime, especially thefts, car break-ins and residential burglaries.
DaRé rattled off a few more statistics at the meeting, held at the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove, Edgar Branch, on Cerulean Avenue:
Aggravated assaults are at 92 this year, compared to 84 last year.
There have been 228 burglaries in Garden Grove this year, compared to 199 at this point in 2014.
Theft has doubled, to 1,200 reported cases from 600.
“I think we’re still providing a great service out there,” DaRé said. “Our arrests are up, and that’s huge.”
The West Garden Grove Neighborhood Watch has a Facebook page that is viewed as a model for residents to share information to help keep their streets safe.
In many cases, information posted by residents on the site has led to arrests; the Garden Grove PD and other city agencies have access to the site, which despite a few exceptions is restricted to residents only.
The administrators of the Facebook page — David Johnson, Katarina Weinberg, Cynthia Graves and George Brietigam, who all manage the page on their own time as volunteers – were honored last August by then Police Chief Kevin Raney with a Chief’s Coin for Merit (click here to read story).
At the meeting, DaRé urged residents to take extra caution in securing their homes and cars and not leaving valuables inside them. And he said home security camera systems and alarms serve as excellent deterrents against would-be burglars.
“But they are only deterrents – they aren’t going to stop (burglars),” DaRé said, adding that after a home alarm triggers it can take 10 minutes for officers to arrive.
Brietigam told the crowd: “The whole goal of West Garden Grove Neighborhood Watch is for the community to work in partnership with the police. We have a very focused mission, and we’re a great resource for the community.“
Cindy Nagamatsu, community liaison manager for the Garden Grove PD, joined DaRé at the meeting. Both mentioned that the GGPD is in the process of transitioning to a new computer system that will allow officers to do their jobs even better.
The state-of-the-art system is a product of Spillman Technologies Inc., which produces law enforcement and public safety software for dispatch centers, jails, fire departments and other public safety agencies. The GGPD hopes to be fully on line in September and to resume sharing crime statistics with residents.
DaRé urged residents to continue to be vigilant and to continue collaborating with the GGPD.
“You guys are doing a great job and making calls,” he said, “and it’s helping us out.”
Behind the Badge OC photographer Steven Georges contributed to this report.