The Morgan Hill Police Department in 2018 hired six new officers, made fewer arrests and wrote more traffic citations than the previous year, according to the department’s annual report.
Overall, incidents of eight categories of the “most serious crimes” stayed essentially the same in 2018 and 2017, with 793 and 796 such crimes reported each year, respectively. Known as “Part 1” crimes, these include larceny/theft (including auto break-ins), burglary, aggravated assault, robbery, homicide, rape, arson and auto theft. The part 1 crime numbers in the MHPD annual report are the official stats reported to the state Department of Justice and the FBI, which tracks and publishes crime data from local agencies nationwide.
In Morgan Hill, by far the largest percentage of Part 1 crimes reported in 2018 were incidents of larceny and theft, with 63 percent, according to the MHPD 2018 annual report. The next most common offenses here last year were burglary (16 percent) and auto theft (15 percent). Aggravated assaults accounted for 4 percent of the Part 1 total, and robbery 2 percent.
Zero incidents of homicide, rape and arson were reported to MHPD in 2018.
The total number of crimes reported to MHPD last year was 3,812 —a significant decrease from 4,137 in 2017. The total number of arrests made by MHPD officers in 2018 was 1,664, down from 1,946 in 2017. The three-year average (2016-2018) for total crimes and arrests reported by MHPD is 4,005 and 1,976, respectively.
Vehicle traffic and its associated problems are a growing concern among Morgan Hill residents, but the police department’s annual report indicates that collisions and DUI arrests went down in 2018. Police Chief David Swing said the annual number of traffic collisions within the city limits peaked at about 280 in 2016. In 2018, local police responded to 258 collisions.
But traffic citations are on the rise in Morgan Hill. Officers wrote 2,481 tickets in 2018, compared to 2,146 in 2017 and 1,236 in 2016.
MHPD currently has two full-time traffic officers, and has budget approval for one more. The chief hopes to hire a third traffic officer before the end of this year. He said that patrol officers “have a role in traffic safety as well, as they are out proactively policing and making traffic stops.”
Local police and city officials have some tools to help improve traffic safety—such as the city council’s adoption of a Vision Zero traffic safety plan in early 2018—but more regional solutions outside law enforcement’s jurisdiction would help, Swing explained. The traffic impacts are directly related to population growth and new residential construction in the area.
“When we have an influx of new residents, not just in Morgan Hill but in our region, more people are commuting (and) more cars are on the road,” Swing said. Smartphone navigation apps complicate the problem locally by urging commuters to reroute onto city streets, he added.
Within MHPD, Swing said, “We recognize that traffic safety is a top priority for our community, and we are looking at locations where there are more collisions,” and attempting to bring more safety to the roads through engineering, education and enforcement.
Streets with a high incidence of collisions in Morgan Hill include the Cochrane Road corridor and Monterey Road, Swing said.
While auto break-ins are lumped into the larceny/theft category and thus not tallied separately, the website crimereports.com shows that since November 2018, 27 such crimes have been reported to MHPD. Swing said auto break-ins are on the rise throughout the Bay Area, and local residents frequently voice concerns about these crimes on social media and other apps.
MHPD has responded by working with the owners of shopping centers with large parking lots that thieves like to target, and educating the public not to leave valuable belongings in unattended cars.
“The best thing our community can do to help reduce vehicle burglaries is not leave their stuff unsecure (in their cars) when they go into a store, or even parked outside their home,” Swing said. “Bring (valuable items) inside or lock them in the trunk.”
Morgan Hill resident Julie Dieterly is a moderator of the Morgan Hill CA Neighborhood Watch page on Facebook—one of a handful of social media accounts focused on local happenings. She said in general, when it comes to public safety, local social media users have been most concerned about “speeding and reckless drivers, shoplifting, burglary, illegal dumping and homeless issues.”
Dieterly added that another concern among locals is the fact that more criminal suspects are cycling through the penal system “without any serious recriminations.” This is a factor of new state laws in recent years designed to reduce the prison population by making local agencies responsible for certain offenders. Police chiefs and sheriffs throughout the state have noted that these efforts, known as realignment, have created more local crime problems.
Steve Chappell, local resident and administrator of another popular Facebook page, said based on his observations and those of other social media users, property crimes are at “epidemic levels, especially in areas closest to the freeway access” in Morgan Hill. Chappell, who administers the Morgan Hill Community Group page, added that illegal dumping and other unreported crimes seem to be on the rise.
“While I strongly applaud MHPD’s efforts, more emphasis needs to be placed on thwarting the spike in property crimes with increased patrol and response to problem areas inside our city,” Chappell said.
‘Great support’ for MHPD
The MHPD’s annual report also includes details about the department’s hiring activity in the previous year (six new officers with more expected in 2019), community engagement efforts, a list of local resources and general information about Morgan Hill and its police force.
Department staff currently includes 27 sworn officers, six reserve officers, four civilian officers and nine dispatchers, according to the 2018 annual report. Numerous volunteers also assist MHPD.
Swing noted the report was compiled by MHPD Executive Assistant Lisa Cardenas.
“I hope the readers of our annual report see a different side of our organization and continue their great support of our department, and their partnership in keeping Morgan Hill safe,” Swing said.
CRIME BY THE NUMBERS
Part 1 crimes* in Morgan Hill
Traffic-related reports, 2018
Traffic citations: 2,481
Traffic-related reports, 2017
Traffic citations: 2,146
Morgan Hill Police arrests
To view the MHPD 2018 annual report, visit the department’s website at morgan-hill.ca.gov/129/Police.
*Part 1 crimes include Larceny/theft (including vehicle break-ins), burglary, aggravated assault, robbery, homicide, rape, arson and auto theft.