Activity down except arson

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Even though the Rocklin Police Department reports that overall crime is down 4 percent citywide, arson was up 280 percent last year. Fire Chief Bill Mikesell said citizens need not be worried about an arsonist on the loose. “None of the 2010 fires were found to be related,” Mikesell said. While the percentage increase sounds bad, Mikesell said when you look at the actual number of fires, it extinguishes a lot of the concern. In 2009, there were three fires categorized as arson or suspicious in nature. Last year it was seven, according to Mikesell. “The increase is over double from the previous year and most of the fires have been solved or prosecuted,” Mikesell said. He said arsonists can have many different motives and this does not represent a trend. “In some cases, the intentions might be innocent or curious but, the outcome can be tragic,” Mikesell said. “Remember, it is a crime to toss a cigarette or any type of burning material, such as fireworks, into combustible materials.” In 2010, the total fire damage reported was $1,116,600 but firefighters were able to save $1,513,900 worth of property citywide. Mikesell wants citizens to be vigilant in reporting suspicious activities. “The timely reporting of a fire will help the fire department respond quickly. Getting a description of anyone seen in the area of a fire will benefit the investigation process,” Mikesell said. From January 2010 through December 2010, the crime rate in Rocklin declined 4 percent and the city continues to experience one of the lowest crime rates in the region, according to police. Police Chief Mark Siemens, who is retiring in March, said investigators are focused on the most prevalent crimes such as vehicle break-ins, auto theft and burglary. “We have had success in solving these crimes and I believe that Rocklin has become a less attractive target because criminals are more likely to get caught and prosecuted,” Siemens said. According to police, while violent crime like rape, aggravated assault and murder is down, property crime is inching upward. Last year there were 68 cars stolen, 215 burglaries and 750 incidents of larceny. The police force has been operating in a strained budget where overtime is reduced, open positions are being frozen, officers’ pay has been cut by 5 percent and support staff has been reduced. Even so, the city boasts a growing force of volunteers and neighborhood-watch programs continue to be successful. “Even with diminishing resources, the Rocklin Police Department continues to focus on criminal report solvability and we investigate all activity in which we get a lead,” Rocklin Police Lt. Lon Milka said. “We have great community involvement with our extensive neighborhood-watch program and civilian volunteers and, simply put, we catch suspects who victimize our residents.”