A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany: In fear of thieves

Written February 26th, 2014 by Hasso Hering
Police Chief Mario Lattanzio talks at a council meeting Feb, 24.

Police Chief Mario Lattanzio talks at an Albany council meeting Feb, 24.

In Albany, residents on average have less to fear from violent crime than elsewhere in the state and nation. But they have to worry about losing their property to criminals more. Residents already know this, and it was confirmed by what Police Chief Mario Lattanzio has told the city council.

The chief gave the council a series of tables. They showed that Albany’s rate of violent crime — homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — had fallen from a high of 2.26 per 1,000 residents in 2001 to a low of 0.83 last year, 2013. And in all those years, the violent crime rate in Albany has been far below the rates of Oregon, the Pacific states and the country as a whole.

The picture was reversed on major property crime including arson, burglary, theft, and vehicle theft. In that category, crime in Albany also has fallen, from a high of 98 per 1,000 in 2003 to 42 in 2013. But the Albany rate has been and remains above that of the state, the Pacific states and United States.

Residents know this and it affects their peace of mind. Fully one-third of people who responded to the city’s recent online survey, nearly 35 percent, said they felt unsafe or very unsafe in their neighborhoods from property crimes like burglary and theft, while 12 percent felt unsafe or very unsafe because of violent crime.

One obvious challenge for the chief, in his first year on the job after coming from metropolitan Mesa, Ariz., is to bring down the above-average property crime rate. He suggested that if and when the city builds a new police headquarters, as proposed, the building include holding cells for people picked up on warrants.

Often these are people for whom petty crime is a way of life. Lattanzio gave the council a real-life example. From last Oct. 21 to Feb. 2, this man was arrested eight times, on warrants each time, suggesting that he had ignored court appearances or orders after previous arrests. Each time the jail let him go right away or after a few hours, either on conditional releases or because the jail was full. Police officers might be forgiven if they began to think there was no point in picking somebody like that up.

If the police had the facilities, they could hold someone long enough to appear in Municipal Court. A brief jail sentence then might be imposed. If the man in Lattanzio’s example had been incarcerated for three months after his first arrest on two warrants, seven additional arrests would not have had to take place at all. Multiply that situation by a few hundred times, and you get the idea that with proper holding facilities, there might be time for additional patrols or other measures to discourage thieves from breaking into places and taking people’s stuff. (hh)

5 responses to “Albany: In fear of thieves”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    “If the police had the facilities, they could hold someone long enough to appear in Municipal Court.”

    When Albany residents look at the need for a current police facility without a “jaundice eye” there isn’t much opposition to a new facility. But the city has an obligation to show the clear-eyed taxpayer what will be bought and how much it will cost. The city failed miserably on both counts last November. Hopefully, the Burright/Morse committee will clear these hurdles in their recommendations. But it will take some out-of-the box recommendations to make it happen. The committee is off to a promising start with the idea to use CARA money to pay for a new building. The only question now is – does the committee have guts to recommend this type of financial solution? And would the city council accept it?

    I’m optimistic on the first, not so much on the latter.

  2. David Moore says:

    The emphasis by any municipality should be on crime prevention, as opposed to making bigger jails. Jail does not really help the cycle of crime… Too often, jail is where criminals meet to plot their next crimes when they get out. Jail should be a place of healing for the body and the soul – not a place of torture and abuse with TV, artificial light, violence, and chemicalized food and water. This is just common sense. There is a lot that can be done here. Two wrongs do not make a right. The emphasis needs to be on healing the tortured soul, not vengeance and punishment. This is basic. Real basic. We can stop the cycle of crime by showing just a little bit of compassion. Good Always Wins. Remember the Golden Rule. An eye for an eye, and everyone goes blind.

  3. Jim Clausen says:

    I think David Moore might be on to something… instead of sending violent criminals to jail, maybe we should just send them to Davids house!

    I’m sure he’d be able to give them hot meals and “healing for the body and the soul”…

    How about it David, ya gonna step up and practice what you preach?

  4. tom cordier says:

    Albany needs to build a holding cell?? how about this: Albany underlevies CARA monies from all taxing districts so the County jail can open and staff the already built County jail.
    A fully operational County jail is sufficient, judges are on call every weekend. Albany’s costs for County ail space is minimal. Albany holding cells are a redundant expense.

  5. Shawn Dawson says:

    It is not surprising to me that crimes such as theft have gone up. My personal experience with the APD and theft is that even when one hands over evidence of a theft (audio recordings obtained by a lawyer that I hired) that they still will not pursue the charges even though I have already paid for the legwork for what is an obvious crime. It really disillusioned me with their concern over non-violent crimes.


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