The city of Lindsay sees 39% increase in reported crime cases, not because frequency of crimes has changed, but because staff has grown by six officers in six months
VISALIA – After an influx of new officers were hired in Lindsay’s public safety department, the extra manpower proved to be beneficial, as the city has already seen 39% of criminal cases.
Lindsay’s crime case numbers went up this year, but it’s not because crime is rising. Rather, it’s because officers were able to respond to more calls within the city due to a larger staff, according to director of public safety Rick Carrillo. Now that the city has more manpower, they are able to pursue cases that otherwise slipped through the cracks due to less people on patrol and less resources for investigative cases.
Within the last six months, the department hired six new police officers, one fire engineer and within the past year four fire volunteers. This gave the department the extra manpower they needed to pursue more cases. Additionally, Carrillo said that the department also has more detective help and specialized officer roles than before.
“I attribute most of [the increased numbers] to the fact that we have full staff now,” Carrillo said. “We have the manpower and the freedom now to go out and do proactive work that [we] maybe didn’t have last year, during COVID, or in years past due to staffing requirements.”
A case number is drawn any time an officer responds to a call and has to write a report. The cases involved in this data are rape, robbery, assault, burglary, murder, larceny, auto theft and arson. Overall, the total number of cases jumped from 1,512 in 2021 to 2,098 in 2022. That’s 586 more case numbers in one year. Carrillo said that this is largely due to having more time to go out and develop these cases now that the department is fully staffed. Carrillo said that the city hasn’t seen their safety department full staffed since the earlier 2000’s.
According to data provided by Carrillo, the average amount of assault and larceny cases are just over 10 cases per month. Auto theft ranges at four to five cases per month, and burglary averages around three. Robbery and arson range around 1 case per month, whereas rape and murder average to zero.
Not only has manpower helped the department respond to and report more cases, but Carrillo also said they are sending officers out to check on certain criminal individuals within the city, such as sex offenders. Carrillo said that within the past year, officers have been making contact with the city’s registered sex offenders, especially during holidays or when school starts back up. This is to be proactive and prevent any of these individuals from reoffending. Another area that the department has really been cracking down on is DUI enforcements since there are more officers out on patrol.
“[Residents] say they see us out on patrol, they see the cop cars, they see the stuff out there that they haven’t seen in a long time,” Carrillo said. “I tell them it’s because we have the availability now, where we can go out and network, and look for things.”
The city not only hired additional public safety officers, but they expanded their fire department as well. Before being fully staffed, there was not only a limited number of officers on a single shift, but they also wore multiple hats. Lindsay is one of three departments in the entire state to have a public safety department where the officers have dual fire and police roles. The officers were originally cross trained and would trade their blues for a fire suit when the need arose. Because of the lack of fire personnel, their time was much more divided. Now, Carrillo said that there are days when the department has six people on duty, and an additional person working for the fire division.
“With [the fire division], we have been able to basically take all [fire duties] off of the [designated] police officers. Now, we not only have more people, but not handling fires frees up [the police officers] to be able to go out and be proactive.”
The department has also implemented specialized programs and new roles to their officers, which has also helped the department become more efficient. One program is based on a contract between Lindsay, Woodlake, Exeter and Farmersville. The idea of this program is that if one city has a murder or attempted murder, officers from these different cities will help respond to the call and investigate, according to city manager Joe Tanner. Though Lindsay does not have a detective right now, this program helps fill in the gaps.
“It’s a contract that we have amongst the four cities to help each other out. That helps out quite a bit,” Carrillo said. “Late last year, we became a member of that, whereas we weren’t before, mostly because of our staffing restrictions.”
They have also been able to implement a special role to officer Bruce Fox, an officer designated to the homeless community within Lindsay. Fox not only responds to calls involving transient individuals, but he also is tasked with connecting and giving resources to homeless individuals. At the Jan. 10 city council meeting, Fox shared a photo of himself leaning on a fire hydrant, talking to a homeless woman just a few feet away from him. She had come all the way from Visalia, after she heard that Lindsay had an officer that helped those suffering from homelessness. Fox was able to give her resources and connect with her on a human level.
“In networking with the community, first and foremost, it shows our community and the efforts that we’re making, to not just protect but serve as well. That’s what officer Fox does,” Carrillo said.
Fox said at the city council meeting that there are currently 18 homeless individuals in the city. He approaches homeless individuals throughout the city and carries a binder in hand, where he takes their photo, collects emergency contacts for them and also gives them resources such as information about Alcoholics Anonymous, homeless shelters, offers transportation and much more. It hasn’t come without challenges, though. Fox said there were 292 documented incidents involving homeless individuals this year, which averaged to 24 incidents a month. He said it is usually trespassing, or suspicious person incidents, however it is rarely violent.
“They’re people too. Usually there is not too much violence within the homeless community [here],” Fox said. “It’s a smaller city, everyone knows each other. It’s the same with the homeless community too.”