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No spike in Rohnert Park crime last year

Rates for most crimes in Rohnert Park remained mostly flat in 2013, the year that the Graton Resort and Casino opened just outside the city's boundary, according to new statistics.

The gambling palace opened Nov. 5 amid some fears that the venue would attract unsavory characters and cause an increase in crime throughout the city.

While officials say it may be too soon to see the casino's impacts on overall crime rates, the statistics released in advance of Tuesday's city council meeting show that crime in a number of categories in Rohnert Park is at or below the five-year average.

“At first blush, it would seem to me that in fact the opening of the casino has not materially altered our picture of crime in Rohnert Park,” said councilman Jake Mackenzie. “I don't think any of the dire forecasts have been borne out at all.”

Total incidents of crime is at the lowest level in the past five years, according to the Department of Public Safety statistics. The city had 866 reported Part I crimes, which include the most violent crimes against people and property like homicide, rape, robbery and burglary. Last year, 928 Part I crimes were reported. The worst year in the past five was 2009 with 1,108.

There were 16 forcible rapes and 24 robberies, more than in the past two years. Larceny, which includes shoplifting, was at the lowest rate in five years with 487 reported in 2013.

“The one thing that did surprise me was the larceny rate,” said Christine Giordano, records supervisor for the Department of Public Safety.

She said the drop in larceny could be due to less reporting of theft, or it could be attributed to increased enforcement.

Motor vehicle theft, with 64 reported cases last year, was at the highest level in five years.

Councilwoman Gina Belforte said the crime statistics show a positive trend, though she said it is hard to judge the impact the casino had on crime at this point.

“Anytime crime is down, that's a great statistic,” she said. “It's a little bit early to tell about the casino. Give it a year and then we'll see.”

She said a partnership between city public safety officers, Sonoma County Sheriff's department, CHP and casino security has been working well so far. The sheriff's department handles calls on the casino property since it is just outside city limits.

Rohnert Park also reported a drop in “Part II” crimes, which include fraud, vandalism and DUI, with 774, the fewest in five years. However, 2013 had the most DUIs in the past three years with 142.

(You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.)

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