Crime level stabilizing, according to Scotts Valley PD

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Steve Walpole, SVPD chief
Chief Steve Walpole, Jr. (file photo)

Burglaries nearly doubled in 2020—overall, crime fluctuated heavily during the pandemic, Scotts Valley Police Department Chief Steve Walpole, Jr. told the city council in his annual presentation. The numbers have dropped since, and thankfully, there are still no homicides to report.

“I’ve been really impressed by the morale of the department as a whole,” Walpole said. “Everything seems like it’s running on all cylinders.”

In 2021, officers cited 65% more people than the previous year, initiated 12,965 calls (up from 12,192 in 2020, but still below 2019’s 14,530), arrested 425 people (up from 374 last year, but below the 486 arrests of 2019), and responded to 6,033 calls for service (well below the about 6,400 calls of the prior three years).

“6,000 calls for services are no joke,” Councilmember Derek Timm commented, adding he’s been enjoying meeting all the recruits.

Robberies had jumped to seven in 2020 (up from one in 2019) but were back down at two last year. Arsons also landed at two.

Rape had risen from two in 2019 to seven in 2020; SVPD police investigated six rapes in 2021.

Larceny has been remarkably consistent over the past three years, at 105, 104 and 106 for the years starting with 2019. But auto thefts had risen from eight to 21 in 2020 but were down by almost 50% this year. However, car accidents had dropped in 2020 to 114 but rose more than a third this year to 156. Drug violations continue to decline—from a high of 162 in 2018 to 90 in 2020, down to 79 this year.

Councilmember Jack Dilles noted that the police statistics showed the breakdown of arrests and other enforcement actions by race is in line with Scotts Valley’s population makeup. Walpole said he feels that’s an accurate way to interpret the data.

The chart presented to the council shows that 74 white suspects were taken into custody last year (64% of 112 total), while white people account for 78% of the city’s population (as measured by the 2020 Census). Five Black suspects were taken into custody (4% of the total)—Black people account for 1% of the population. 29 Hispanic suspects were taken into custody (26% of the total)—Hispanic people account for 11% of Scotts Valley’s population.SVPD didn’t take any Asian suspects into custody, although Asian residents account for 7% of the population.

Meanwhile, Black people accounted for 3% of those given verbal warnings; white people accounted for 71%, Hispanic people 19%, Asian people 4% and others 3% (other races make up 3% of the population).

The stats appear to even out when all enforcement actions, including fix-it tickets, notice-to-appears and public service stops, are factored in. Black people accounted for 3% of stops, white people 70%, Hispanic people 21%, Asian people 3% and others 3%.

But there is one substantial demographic disparity: Scotts Valley is home to about the same number of men and women, yet men were stopped by police 1,609 times, compared to women who were stopped 834 times. 

The department is getting its traffic unit and junior police academy up and running again. It’s exciting news, but Walpole said the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas is perpetually on his mind these days, especially while he watched over the recent local graduation ceremony. 

“I think everybody was thinking about Texas,” he said. “It was important for me to be [at the graduation] and assure everyone we had it under control.”

Mayor Donna Lind, a retired SVPD officer, said she’s pleased the community can help train-up neighboring jurisdictions—Scotts Valley was set to play host to hundreds of officers across Northern California for an active-shooter drill.

“It’s so helpful to train with other agencies,” she said. “This training allows you all to get comfortable [working together].”

Councilmember Randy Johnson applauded Walpole—his father previously led the force—for helping rebuild the department after several hiccups.

“You’re fulfilling the same role [as your father] in the best possible way,” Johnson said.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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