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Santa Clarita crime reports returned to “normal levels” in April, with a total of 220 Part-I crimes reported, a 30.5% decrease over the March 2021 figure (314), and very close to the number of Part-I crimes reported in April 2020 (217), according to Sheriff’s Department data.

Property crimes continue to be the largest crime of any category by a significant amount, with sheriff’s data indicating in March, right after reopening, Santa Clarita Valley residents saw the brief spike that largely involved property crimes.

However, SCV Sheriff’s Station arrest data obtained by The Signal also indicates recidivism continues to be a major problem for deputies who have reported an “exponential” rise in repeat offenders in response to L.A. Superior Court’s emergency no-bail order, which has been encouraged by District Attorney George Gascón.

Permanent changes as to how the county’s court system will implement bail going forward are also being discussed, due to a recent state Supreme Court ruling that found the state’s cash bail system unconstitutional for those who can’t afford it.

“As the punishment for committing crimes has been severely lessened due to the district attorney’s directives, we are seeing more and more offenders being arrested multiple times with little to no consequences or rehabilitation,” said Mayor Bill Miranda in a statement emailed to The Signal. “In some cases, we are seeing criminals arrested up to 20 times in one year.”

As deputies have sought to stem the thefts that make up the largest portion of Part-I crimes in the area and remind people about the importance of locking up their possessions, they’re also re-arresting certain individuals numerous times for similar charges — with the suspects able to re-offend and then be released 48 hours later, after their preliminary arraignment, according to sheriff’s officials.

In looking at the spike in property crimes two months ago, for example, in the Jakes Way area specifically, deputies are investigating a report of just under 50 vehicle burglaries that took place in mid-March, which would have accounted for a significant portion of the increase in Part-I reports that month — including about 40 in a 72-hour period.

Deputies have arrested several suspects in connection with their investigations to those incidents, including, most recently, an arrest of a burglary-theft suspect believed to be responsible for about 10 incidents in the same Canyon Country neighborhood. One suspect arrested on suspicion of vehicle burglaries in connection with a station investigation into crime in that area, Eduardo Banda, has been taken into custody five times in the past year prior to this most recent incident, according to data obtained by The Signal.

Property crimes

While vehicle thefts and vehicle burglaries are the most prevalent crimes in Santa Clarita, an important thing for people to understand is how there are a lot of ways they can help cut down on those crimes, according to Capt. Justin Diez of the SCV Sheriff’s Station.

“If everybody locked their cars and their doors, closed their garage — and followed the ‘9 p.m. Routine,’” he said, referring to a public safety campaign from the city and the Sheriff’s Station to remind people to lock up before they go to bed, “our larceny thefts would go down exponentially.”

“Guard That Auto” was another recent campaign, with an eponymous aim, a play on the popular video game, “Grand Theft Auto,” that essentially encouraged the opposite behavior among players.

“We see from the statistics that vehicle burglary and vehicle theft make up 60% of Part-I crimes,” Miranda noted in his statement. “These crimes are some of the easiest to prevent by locking your car doors and not leaving valuable items in plain sight. Make sure to park in a well-lit area and, if possible, in your garage or driveway.”

However, part of the challenge law enforcement officials are coming up against is that while there’s no bail in place due to the pandemic over the past year, the rise in repeat offenders also has been “exponential.”

Recidivism

Banda is one of 80 people who’ve been arrested at least five times in the past year. And just as frustrating to law enforcement officials, Banda’s handful of arrests barely have him in the top 50 arrestees since last March, according to data obtained by The Signal.

City and SCV Sheriff’s Station officials have tracked repeat offenders in the SCV since the March 2020 emergency no-bail order was put in place.

For example, the arrest data has indicated that in the SCV, officials have arrested six people at least 10 times or more. The sheer number of repeat arrests, however, gives a better indication of the resources involved in these efforts: There have been approximately 6,200 arrests since the start of quarantine by deputies in the SCV area. About 700 people account for nearly 2,300 of those arrests.

In January, The Signal reported on the arrest of Carlton SearcyCooper, who was arrested Dec. 30 on suspicion that he tried to corner two female custodians in a park restroom, who were able to lock the door until deputies arrived. He was mentioned in a story with respect to recidivism as he was arrested last year on April 20, June 29, July 1, July 4, July 12, July 28, Aug. 3, Oct. 27 and then Dec. 30, per Sheriff’s Department records.

In tracking his case, court and custody records available online indicate SearcyCooper, 50, was in pretrial custody until a March 4 court date. At his hearing, he was sentenced to 270 days in jail and two years’ probation, according to Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office. He was released March 12, per Sheriff’s Department records.

Bail reform

While a number of cities, including Santa Clarita, have issued a largely symbolic vote of no-confidence in Gascón for his support of changes to bail and other policies, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion aimed at implementing the California Supreme Court’s Humphrey decision, which ruled cash bail is “unconstitutional” for those who can’t afford it.

The motion instructs the district attorney to consult with relevant departments, such as the Sheriff’s Department, county Superior Court and the California attorney general, to report back to the board with ways to implement the ruling, while protecting the constitutional rights of accused people and promoting public safety. Officials will report back at a later date.

Miranda issued a statement of support for deputies’ efforts and cited crime numbers as an achievement in spite of L.A. County’s top prosecutor in reflecting on the April decrease in crime reports.

“We appreciate the dedication and hard work of our deputies, who continue to arrest and apprehend these criminals, even as they know that most of the criminals will soon be back out on the streets,” Miranda said. “Santa Clarita continues to be one of the safest cities in the nation, despite the challenges these new DA directives have placed on our criminal justice system.”

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