Despite a rash of street robberies in Sacramento's midtown area during the holiday season, police assured residents that their neighborhoods are safe.
The midtown area is now among the safest places in the city, City Councilman Steve Hansen told approximately 200 people who attended a midtown community safety meeting this evening, "so when something happens, we notice it."
Sacramento Police Capt. Ken Bernard acknowledged the uptick in street robberies, with 13 reported in midtown between Dec. 20 and Jan. 6. With the exception of four in the area of 20th and J streets, he said, the robberies were spread over a large area and appeared to be unrelated.
Four that police think were related involved a group of young men, and three of the four victims reported seeing a firearm.
In the early morning of Dec. 22, officers contacted two young men in a vehicle and recovered a gun that was in the car. The two were arrested on a weapons charge, and although investigators have not yet linked them to the robberies, Bernard said robberies in that area ceased after their arrest.
In addition, police this week arrested a suspect in a Dec. 30 robbery in the 2000 block of K Street, in which the victim's wallet and keys to his roommate's vehicle were taken. Later that day, the roommate's parked vehicle was stolen.
Although some police services have been curtailed due to budget cuts, Bernard said four to eight additional officers were assigned to the midtown area during the evening hours in response to the recent robberies. The beefed up midtown force can't be sustained in the long term, but Bernard said the department can take such measures to tackle specific problems.
Lt. Marc Coopwood cited, as an example, a significant increase in stolen vehicles, particularly older Hondas, in midtown in the first part of 2012. The number of vehicles stolen in the area from January to July was running 60 percent ahead of the same period the previous year, but with a concerted effort by police and residents to prevent thefts, the total at the end of 2012 was comparable to that for 2011, he said.
Currently, police said, they are seeing an large number of vehicle burglaries in midtown, particularly between midnight and 2 a.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They advised residents and visitors to midtown restaurants and entertainment venues to park in well lighted areas and not to leave anything in a vehicle that would tempt a burglar.
Because of reduced staffing, officers can't respond to some types of crimes that they used to, but Bernard urged residents to report crimes online or in person. Police resources, he explained, are allocated to areas of the city based on the number of crime reports and calls for service.
Coopwood offered several tips for personal safety, particularly in neighborhoods where many people walk to stores and restaurants:
Walk in pairs.
Carry a signaling device, and perhaps pepper spray.
Don't resist armed robbers. Give them what they ask for, and concentrate instead on details, particularly a description of any cars involved, that would help police locate the robbers. "Be a good victim, and be a good witness," Coopwood said.
Hansen, who hosted the community safety meeting, said he intends to schedule future meetings to address residents' concerns about dealing with midtown's homeless population, and how to balance the interests of area businesses and residents.