Compared with the first six months of 2013, Menlo Park saw a 14 percent drop in the total number of reported crime incidents during the first half of 2014, according to statistics released by the city.
Property crime, which includes burglaries and auto thefts, dropped 16 percent, with 277 cases reported during the first half of 2014 compared to 329 during the same period in 2013. Car thefts decreased by 50 percent, with seven cases reported this year to date.
While there were four robberies reported, versus 10 in 2013, aggravated assaults rose slightly, with 14 cases reported to date this year -- one more than at this point last year.
Eight rapes and sexual assaults were reported from January to June 2014, compared to no reported rapes in 2013. This year the data combined both types of incidents into a single category as part of a move by the FBI, which collects statistics from law enforcement agencies, to provide more information about the prevalence of serious sex crimes that aren't categorized as rape, according to Menlo Park Police Chief Bob Jonsen.
The Menlo Park Police Department has implemented several changes during the past six months that may be contributing to the overall decrease in crime: Traffic enforcement, including the deployment of officers on motorcycles, increased; the Belle Haven substation at 871 Hamilton Ave. opened in April; and the department began using automated license plate readers in May.
Some of the credit also goes to the department's police advisory group, which recently celebrated its first anniversary. Among their contributions: Helping to prepare a traffic-enforcement plan that contributed to a 19 percent reduction in collision-related injuries during the first half of 2014, the chief said, and also recruiting neighborhood watch block captains, according to the chief.
Chief Jonsen said some of the advisory group's recommendations led to new monthly meetings between traffic officers and the city's transportation and engineering staff to discuss roadway issues; a new web page on the police department's website that will let residents ask for enforcement in specific areas; and a rotation schedule to provide increased traffic patrols at all Menlo Park schools on different days of the week.