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Scotts Valley Police Department may not quite have enough officers yet to restart its investigations unit, but the patrol department is finally fully staffed, Chief Steve Walpole Jr. told the Scotts Valley City Council on May 17.

This addition of novice law enforcers and lateral hires—including one former officer who was welcomed back into the fold—has brought new life into the detachment, and a jump in enforcement numbers.

“They were effective this year,” Walpole said, pointing to the 34% increase in arrests, from 425 to 570. “Because when officers are proactive and looking for people that are doing bad things in our city, they find more people to arrest.”

Rape cases dropped to three from six last year (it was seven in 2020). Injury accidents dropped 21% from 19 to 15. Non-injury accidents decreased 10%, from 137 to 122. Hit-and-runs even decreased by 5% (21 to 20). Auto thefts remained constant at 11.

There were no arsons, homicides or traffic fatalities in the SVPD data for 2022.

The total number of officer-initiated calls went up from 12,965 to 16,745 (29%), and citations jumped 6% (958 to 1,021).

Walpole believes there were fewer vehicle collisions because they’ve now added a motorcycle officer to focus on transportation safety.

“Everyone I talk to—my friends and family—have noticed, ‘Hey, I’m seeing a lot more officers out there,’” Walpole said. “I’m like, ‘Well, good. You follow the laws, you have nothing to worry about.’”

Unfortunately, larceny (thefts not involving violence) jumped 20%, which the chief attributed to the opening of Target (noting the number, 128, is still lower than the 137 recorded in 2018, prior to the K-Mart closure).

The chief also presented the demographic data for vehicle enforcement activities.

It shows of 2,598 traffic stops, 1,678 (65%) of these were on white people (the chart notes 78% of Scotts Valley’s population is white, and 56% across the county); 658 (25%) were on Hispanic people (this group makes up 11% of Scotts Valley’s population and 34% of the county); 99 (4%) were on Asian people (compared to 7% of Scotts Valley’s population and 5% of the county); 80 (3%) were on Black people (the group makes up 1% of the city and 1% of the county).

In total, 1,759 of the traffic stops were of males while 839 were of females, despite the sexes being split about equally across the community—and Santa Cruz County.

Walpole said he believes the numbers reflect that officers aren’t acting in a biased manner when it comes to race, if you factor in that people from out of town are also present in the municipal boundaries.

“Scotts Valley is only about 3% of the county,” Walpole said. “We’re a commuter location. So, there’s a lot of people that drive through our city…It’s not surprising that those numbers are hovering between those two.”

Council members agreed with his interpretation and lauded the SVPD for their approach to policing.

Earlier in the meeting, Capt. Jayson Rutherford noted the department has 16 AR-15 patrol rifles and five “less-lethal” shotguns, while presenting the Military Equipment Policy report.

He said there were no “use of force incidents” involving either, but said the equipment was deployed while executing a search warrant targeting an armed suspect.

This did not lead to any complaints by the public.

The day after the Council meeting, a City employee called SVPD (at 9:45am) to report a 2 inch by 2 inch swastika had been drawn on a swing at Skypark. Public Works staff promptly removed the Nazi symbol from the playground equipment.

Capt. Scott Garner said this isn’t part of a trend—at least in terms of antisemitism.

Last year saw a 17% drop in vandalism and graffiti, but Garner noted there’s been a spree of activity on this front over the past several weeks.

“We’re seeing an increase in graffiti tagging, but it’s nothing hate-crime related,” he said, noting SVPD recently forwarded a juvenile graffiti case to the DA’s Office.

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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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