When asked what could have contributed to an apparent massive spike in the reported crime throughout Menlo Park in December 2017 in the city's year-end crime report, the city's interim police chief Dave Bertini provided a relieving answer: typos.
As it turns out, December's crime numbers weren't really outliers compared with other months. Overall, violent crime in Menlo Park is up, with 54 reported incidents in 2017, compared with 30 in 2016; and property crime is up, with 657 incidents reported in 2017, compared with 626 in 2016.
The report has since been revised.
According to the revised report by the Menlo Park police department, there were 54 incidents of violent crime - a category that includes homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault - reported in Menlo Park in 2017, up from 30 in 2016. In all, there were zero homicides, 16 rapes, 15 robberies and 23 incidents of aggravated assault reported.
The 16 reported rapes represent an increase of six over those in 2016. Percentage-wise that's a big increase, Chief Bertini said, but added that it's important for people to note that over the last few years there have been some changes in how rapes are reported – child abuse and molestation cases are classified as rape now – and several of the 2017 reports stemmed from incidents that happened in prior years.
In each of the reported rapes in 2017, the victim knew the assailant, he said.
Aggravated assault – when someone tries to or succeeds in causing serious bodily harm to another person with a deadly or dangerous weapon – was up over 2016 too. In a majority of the cases reported, Chief Bertini said, aggravated assaults are tied to cases of domestic violence.
In a separate count, police indicate there were 112 cases of domestic violence reported during the year. If domestic violence is reported, he said, "most likely someone is going to be arrested."
Of the violent crimes reported in 2017, 72 percent of the cases are closed, Chief Bertini said, representing an increase over the previous year's 66 percent.
On the property crime front, there were a total of 657 reported incidents in 2017. There were 527 incidents of theft, including car burglaries; 96 burglaries; 37 stolen vehicles; and zero incidents of arson reported.
Thefts, or larcenies, are also on the rise, which Chief Bertini said is a regional trend. In particular, there's been a significant increase in car burglaries, he said. Overall, reported thefts increased 17 percent, up from the 450 incidents reported in 2016.
Criminals who previous times may have committed robberies through home invasions are now breaking into cars because of the valuable property that people leave in their vehicles, Mr. Bertini said.
Over the course of the year, the police department received 26 complaints about personnel. Of those, Chief Bertini said, two were sustained, one was exonerated, one was withdrawn, six were frivolous, 10 were unfounded, two were concluded with no finding, and four are pending.
Complaints are considered unfounded if the incident reported did not happen, or did not involve the city's police department. They are considered frivolous if the complaint is "totally and completely without merit," he said -- something like a report alleging police officers are collaborating with aliens.
He credits the use of body cameras with the ability to more clearly reach conclusions in addressing personnel complaints, he said.
The two incidents that were sustained were due to "procedural errors" by personnel, he noted.
Mr. Bertini said that he could not disclose more information about police personnel files and disciplinary records because those details are legally protected by the California police officers' bill of rights.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story indicated the police department is shifting toward a pro-arrest approach to dealing with domestic violence. Interim chief Bertini clarified that this has been the department's policy for many years.