Ontario City Police Chief Steven Romero said more focused patrols have helped cut down on the city crime rate. (The Enterprise/Kezia Setyawan).

ONTARIO – Between the coronavirus and more focused patrol work, Ontario is seeing a dip in overall crime so far this year, according to statistics from the Ontario Police Department.

The agency reported 7,870 calls to police from January through the end of September, compared to 8,189 in the same period in 2019.

There were some notable drops.

Arrests are down 25% – from 825 last year to 626 this year.

Reported burglaries so far total 100, compared to 142 last year.

The biggest drop came in “gang related cases,” which plunged to 23 in the first nine months of the year. That works out to roughly two cases a month, compared to 46 cases a month last year.

Some categories have ticked up, according to the agency’s numbers. Traffic and parking citations increased from 660 in 2019 to 694 for the first nine months of 2020. Reported thefts are up to 616 compared to 549 last year, and assaults increased from 118 last year to 124 this year.

“From a crime prevention standpoint, Covid has helped,” said Police Chief Steven Romero.

On the down side, Romero said at various times the agency had five people out this year who tested positive for the virus.

He said he also transferred one patrol officer to investigations, reducing his on-the-street strength.

The chief said he considered the Ontario agency to be “underfunded and understaffed” and that makes the department “more of a reactive agency.”

He said the agency has stopped dispatching police officers to animal complaints to free up more time for other police work.

He said he took deliberate steps after taking over as chief in June 2019 to reduce local gang activity.

Romero wrote in an email that he “expanded my agency’s intel and investigative capacity that focuses on career criminals and high-risk offenders. This results in targeted policing for high-risk offenders.” That included getting one of his investigators designated as a federal agent.

He said he also took steps to increase the visibility of patrols, which can deter gang behavior.

“I’ve been informed by community members that they have noticed a much higher patrol presence in the community,” he said.

He said he also helped start local youth programs, including in wrestling and “Teaching Tuesday” programs at the Boys and Girls Club in Ontario.

Contact Editor Les Zaitz by email at [email protected]

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