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After Robberies, California City Considers New Police Tech

Officials in Davis, Calif., may turn to installing surveillance cameras throughout the city, after a series of armed robberies in the last two months have prompted a search for more ways to deter crime.

by Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks, Sacramento Bee / December 5, 2019
Photo by Sean Thoman on Unsplash

(TNS) — Davis, Calif., may install surveillance cameras throughout the city, after a series of armed robberies in the last two months have prompted officials to find more ways to deter crime.

In a presentation to the Davis City Council this week, Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel asked city officials to consider buying more cameras or automated license plate reader technology to deter certain criminal activity and assist in investigations.

“I’m very aware of the budget situation. ... I’m not here asking for more cops,” Pytel told the council. “This is a new, emerging way to use technology to increase our eyes in the sky and monitor areas that we simply don’t have the personnel to do it.”

Despite the rash of armed robberies, Davis is still a safe city — violent crime is at its lowest level in over five years, Pytel said.

And the city has fewer robberies this year compared to last year: There were 44 robberies reported in the city last year, compared to 35 so far this year.

But larceny — the theft of personal property — is on the rise, Pytel said. Although part of the increase in larceny might be because of improved online reporting programs, statewide trends show general increases in property crimes, he said.

“The series (of crimes) we’ve had recently is different,” Pytel said. “We haven’t had carjackings in over five years and just in the past month or so we’ve had two involving armed suspects.”

The involvement of weapons in property crimes is particularly unusual, Pytel said. In 2018, 25 percent of the robberies involved weapons. So far in 2019, 40 percent have involved weapons, most of which were handguns, according to a police department memo to the council.

Council members at Tuesday’s meeting expressed general support for installing new cameras and related technology, though the city would have to develop a policy on use and records retention. Funding for procuring the new equipment would also have to be allocated, according to the staff memo.

“The key is it needs to conform to the city’s surveillance technology ordinance, but I think there’s an ability for us to do that and make it work,” said councilman Lucas Frerichs.

The city currently has two non-permanent cameras that can only be used for short periods of time because of their limited storage and power capability.

Davis Police Department will prepare a staff report on cameras and ideas for deploying them, “balancing it with not being overly intrusive,” said Deputy Chief Paul Doroshov.

That report, expected in January, will include proposed surveillance locations, potential costs for the system, what a use policy should look like and how effective cameras are at reducing crime.

“We’re going to contact other agencies and see what other folks are doing,” Doroshov said. “How effective is it? And how do they judge success?”

©2019 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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