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Violent crime in Roseville sees decline in 2008

Vehicle theft, shoplifting on the rise
By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein The Press-Tribune
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Violent crimes such as homicides, rapes, robberies and felony assaults decreased in Roseville in 2008, according to new figures released by the police department last week. But there were still plenty of reasons for residents to keep their doors locked. Categories of violent crime decreased 18 percent, from 369 incidents in 2007 to 269 last year. Still, the total of so-called Part 1 crimes – considered by the FBI to be the most serious – were down negligibly. That’s because an increase in larceny offset the drop in violent incidents. “The violent crime rate is really good,” Police Spokeswoman Dee Dee Gunther said. “But we’ve got thieves. Roseville’s single highest-volume crime we have is thefts from vehicles.” Overall, the number of Part 1 crimes – homicide, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson – was 4,063 in 2008, down just slightly from 4,068 in 2007. But officials are pleased with what’s inside those numbers. The city experienced a homicide-free year in 2008, compared to two killings in 2007. Police also say officers investigated 23 rapes or attempted rapes in 2008 compared to 31 in 2007; 70 robberies last year to 100 in 2007; and 230 aggravated assaults in 2008 to 262 in 2007. Gunther said those numbers reflected a nationwide trend of declining violent crime. But she also gave credit to officers, including the department’s Crime Suppression Unit, a three-year-old unit devoted to focusing on specific problem trends. “I do give our CSU a lot of credit because they work in a very intelligent way to target those known offenders,” she said. “You get those guys off the street and it’s amazing – your crime does go down.” But it was larceny – including everything from shoplifting to snatching an iPod from a car – that erased much of the overall statistic improvement. The city saw a 7 percent increase in the crime, from 2,905 reports in 2007 to 3,116 in 2008. That’s higher than many comparably sized cities. “Theft from vehicles is still Roseville’s signature crime,” Gunther said, adding that it is also largely preventable. “Our shoplifting alone is probably more than some whole cities’ theft rate.” But with the city’s budget hole, the department is looking at doing more with less – and police union officials have said the public’s safety could take a hit. Gunther said the department has left six officer and three civilian positions unfunded. She said RPD’s priority is maintaining front line-staffing. “Other things may go unfilled so we can keep that strong,” she said. One potential bright spot is the recently passed federal stimulus package, which includes $2 billion for state and local governments to address law-enforcement issues. Money still must be appropriated by the state, but Gunther said the department plans to go after the funds, which could fund a number of officer positions for a period of three years.