Monday, November 28, 2005

Fairfield responds to jump in crime

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Fairfield responds to jump in crime

By J.M. BROWN, Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

Fairfield nearly made the top third of California's most dangerous cities, according to a new survey of crime in 2004.

The Solano County seat's crime rate ranked 35th highest among 90 California cities with populations of at least 75,000, according to an annual Morgan Quitno report released this week.

Lt. Tony Shipp, a Fairfield police spokesman, said the department takes stock in such reports and has recently created two task forces to tackle drugs and gangs, two problems that increase any city's crime rate.

The news was better for Vacaville and Napa, which were listed as the state's 24th and 27th safest cities, respectively. Benicia and American Canyon were not included in the survey because they are too small.

Vallejo was not included because of data reporting difficulties. Police officials have said personnel shortages caused the agency to fall behind.

Shipp said Fairfield, which curbed a spike in gang-related homicides two years ago, has actually seen a violent crime decrease so far this year.

"Drugs and gangs usually go hand in hand," Shipp said. "If you get a good grip on those two, you can usually bring down (other crimes)."

For its report, Morgan Quitno tallied the incidence of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and vehicle theft reported to the FBI by police agencies. The figures are then plugged into a formula that compares the numbers to national averages.

The report said Richmond, with more than 30 homicides this year alone, was the most dangerous city in California and the 11th most dangerous in the country. Other Bay Area cities that made the top third most dangerous list for California are Oakland and San Francisco.

The safest Bay Area city on the survey is Livermore, followed by Santa Clara and Daly City. The safest California city overall is Mission Viejo, which was named the fourth safest in the country.

While pleased that Vacaville was among the safest, Police Chief Richard Word said "we want to do better."

Although the city experienced an increase in crime last year, "we are pretty much holding even so far this year," Word said.

While police and school officials have curbed gang activity, he said the city is now battling an increase in auto burglaries and petty thefts, crimes the public can help solve by reporting suspicious activity.

Fairfield's Shipp said citizens can also help cut crime by reporting drug activity and fingering violent offenders. "We can't be everywhere at once," he said.

Although Fairfield ranks low on the crime survey, Robert Noyes, president of Solano Crime Stoppers, said the city's police are moving quickly to act on tips called in to his Vallejo-based organization, which expanded several years ago to include up-county towns.

"That's why we went countywide - north county was tired of their crime," Noyes said. "That's why Vallejo is a lot safer than Fairfield and Vacaville - we ran all of our criminals into their town."

- E-mail J.M. Brown at or call 553-6834.

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