Violent crime cases fell 39 percent in 2015, compared to 2014, while property crime rose 9 percent, according to new Menlo Park Police Department data on crime reports.
Among the reported violent crimes were 113 cases of domestic violence, down 10 percent; nine cases of rape, down 25 percent; 17 cases of aggravated assault, down 29 percent; and four cases of officer assault, down 67 percent.
There were also six reports of robberies, a 63 percent decline from 2014, according to the report, which was released Jan. 14. There were no reports of homicides in either year.
Menlo Park Police Commander Dave Bertini said the decrease in violent crime was connected to the police department's proactive community outreach. He pointed to actions the department has taken, including setting up a new substation in Belle Haven, activating neighborhood watch groups, and having Mary Ferguson, a Facebook-funded officer who focuses on reducing truancy and gang activity, work with kids and teens in the community.
Those actions have helped to "garner a lot of pride in the community by the residents," Commander Bertini said.
Reports of property crimes, meanwhile, which include burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson, increased 9 percent in 2015 from the previous year. There were 450 reports of larceny (theft of personal property, and includes auto burglaries), up 10 percent. Next, burglary came in with 142 reported cases, up 14 percent. There were also 25 reports of stolen vehicles, a 24 percent decrease, and one arson report, compared to none in 2014.
Property crime may be up for a number of reasons, Commander Bertini said. He noted that Proposition 47, which passed in 2014, lowered the penalty for petty theft. The cause may be due to economic conditions, he speculated, and the fact that the city has affluent neighborhoods that make lucrative targets.
Three areas of Menlo Park saw reported crimes in the triple digits.
The highest crime area was census tract 26, the area bounded by the railroad tracks to University Drive and between the creek and Watkins Avenue. There were 163 crimes reported in that area. A total of 130 of those were larceny and 21 were burglary.
Second was census tract 17, the area from Willow Road to Haven Avenue, east of U.S. 101. There were 131 crimes reported there, with 77 larcenies, 31 burglaries, and 10 stolen vehicles. It was the area with the highest number of reported rapes (five of the nine rapes reported in 2015).
Third was census tract 25, or the area described as "Middlefield Road to the railroad tracks and between the creek to Encinal Avenue," which reported 85 cases of larceny and 18 of burglary. After that, the next two neighborhoods with the highest crime numbers are Sharon Heights, with 64 crimes reported, then the Willows area, with 59.
The Menlo Park Police Department received 24 citizen complaints about officer conduct, out of 39,771 officer contacts, Commander Bertini said.
According to the report, two complaints were sustained, two were not sustained, two are still under investigation or pending, in seven cases the officers were exonerated, one complaint was unfounded and three were withdrawn.
The two complaints that were sustained were for conduct unbecoming an officer. According to Commander Dave Bertini, the low complaint rate was linked to two factors: the professionalism of the police department and the use of body cameras.
Over the entire year, the police department responded to 21,000 calls for service, arrested nearly 1,400 people, wrote more than 4,000 reports and conducted 10,400 traffic stops. Those calls for service did not count walk-ins and some administrative tasks.