Police chief attributes 2013 city crime increase to natural cycle

News Reporter

The City of San Marcos experienced more theft, burglary and aggravated assault in 2013 than in the previous year, according to crime statistics released by the police department.

However, Howard Williams, San Marcos police chief, said he attributes the rise in crime to a natural cycle rather than an “epidemic.”

“The simple fact of the matter is numbers go up and down,” Williams said. “Crime numbers run in cycles. We can only report in averages over time.”

Aggravated assaults increased from 108 in 2012 to 137 in 2013, and misdemeanor assaults rose from 449 to 466 in the same time period, according to data from SMPD. The majority of these incidents occurred at bars on Thursday and Friday nights,
Williams said.

“When you look at the numbers, it might seem like a huge increase, percentage-wise,” Williams said. “But when you think of the millions and millions of interactions between people in San Marcos each year, and see there are about a hundred aggravated assaults, that’s actually pretty small number.”    

The San Marcos Police Department is trying to lower the amount of aggravated assaults by working closer with bars and increasing the number of officers on patrol during Thursday and Friday nights, Williams said. He said these efforts will be made even though the assault numbers are not significantly higher than in previous years.

“The trick is to get involved as early as possible, before somebody gets hurt,” Williams said. “Some people can’t control their drinking, and they can’t control their anger.”

Williams said SMPD officers work with bar managers and security personnel so police can get involved to prevent a fight when minor disturbances begin.

Cases of theft increased from to 1,362 in 2013, which is up from 1,197 cases in 2012.

The crime category with the largest increase in 2013 was burglary, which rose from 253 to 374—a 48 percent increase from 2012.

Williams said it is common for burglars to attempt to sell stolen goods at pawnshops.

“(That) happens all the time,” said Ralph Sarmiento, shop manager at Cash America Pawn. “We read their body language and ask them questions about whatever they’re trying to sell.”

Residents usually do not keep records of the serial and model numbers of their more costly items, such as TVs but should in case they are stolen, Williams said.

Williams said police department staff conduct security surveys and can dispatch an officer to advise residents on how to keep their property safe.

“We want as few victims as possible,” Williams said.

Sgt. Laurence Fuller, University Police Department officer, said students worried about assaults should utilize the Bobcat Bobbies service offered by campus police.

“If students are worried and want to avoid situations where they might get attacked, they could always use the Bobcat Bobbies,” Fuller said.

Fuller said UPD officers will send a student worker to escort students safely across campus until 1 a.m.

“Even if it’s at three in morning, we’ll send Bobcat Bobbies with a security guard to make sure you can get home safely,” Fuller said.

Fuller recommended students walk in groups to travel across campus after dark.

“If you make sure to walk with your friends at night, you’re much less likely to be a victim,” Fuller said.