The rates of aggravated assault, rape and other violent crimes in Redding have increased from last year but police are making some headway, thanks in part to an increased awareness among residents.
That was one of the assessments from Redding Police Chief Rob Paoletti, who addressed about 75 people Wednesday evening during a quarterly town hall meeting in the City Council chambers.
Paoletti said he remains concerned with the uptick in violent crimes—he paused to note officers were responding to a reported armed robbery at that very moment—but he attributed some of the increase to a growing number of people engaging in “high-risk lifestyles,” including substance abuse.
The bulk of the increase in reported rapes (54 this year compared with 35 in 2015) are what Paoletti referred to as acquaintance rapes, where the perpetrator and victim know each other. “A vast majority of these are not stranger rapes. These are cases involving family members, people who meet in bars, people on dates … but still, that is a lot of rapes for a community of this size.”
Although rape remains an under-reported crime, Paoletti credited the staff at One Safe Place, a center for victims of sexual and domestic violence, for encouraging victims to report sexual assaults.
Paoletti said since many of the rapes involve people who meet at bars, police are encouraging people to go out in groups and not to let friends who are intoxicated go home with somebody they barely know. “Take care of each other—that’s the message in that,” Paoletti said.
Calls for service are up 10.5 percent over last year but the response time has dropped from 14.53 minutes to 12.5 minutes, an improvement Paoletti attributed to a realignment of shift schedules for patrol officers. The realignment was one of the recommendations in the Blueprint for Public
Safety adopted by the Redding City Council earlier this year.
Property crimes appear headed for a slight increase over 2015’s totals but police are encountering fewer non-forced break-ins; Paoletti said that indicates people are getting better at locking doors.
Vehicle break-ins continue at a disconcerting rate (824 reports in the first eight months of the year), and Paoletti said it’s a crime wave closely associated with the growing scourge of opioid addiction. “Stop leaving valuable stuff in your car,” the chief admonished.
He urged women, when possible, to not take their purses while shopping. Men, he said, have to become “the mules” and carry packages rather than storing them in cars, “because they will watch you put stuff in your car and steal everything you just bought for Christmas.”
After reviewing crime statistics, Paoletti gave a presentation on opioid addiction. A public health crisis affecting the entire country, he said the abuse of opiates like heroin, oxycontin and hydrocodone is particularly devastating locally.
One telling statistic: In 2013, Shasta County residents received 1,291 opioid painkiller prescriptions per 1,000 residents—a rate twice the statewide average of 563 prescriptions per 1,000 residents.
During a Q&A session after his presentation, Paoletti was asked what effects the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 (Prop 57) would have on his department. He said he expected an increased workload.
The proposition, which won 64-36 in the Nov. 8 election, allows for the early release of prisoners sentenced for nonviolent crimes. Paoletti said voters may not have been aware that the measure also changes the definition of some violent crimes, including commercial burglary and the rape of an unconscious person, and reduces them to misdemeanors.
“We’re emboldening the criminal element,” Paoletti warned.