News - February 2, 2011

Why some crimes in Portola Valley, Woodside have not been reported

by Dave Boyce

As some residents of Portola Valley have discovered, there's been a mismatch between crimes entered in the records of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office as having happened in Portola Valley, Woodside, Ladera and unincorporated West Menlo Park and crimes reported by The Almanac.

Sheriff's Office media spokesman Lt. Ray Lunny oversees the once-a-week crime report e-mailed to The Almanac. Asked to explain the missing incidents, Lt. Lunny said that his office had been reporting only the crimes for which the deputies had completed the paperwork — an oversight since corrected, he said.

Portola Valley residents had expressed concern to The Almanac about incidents not reported. In December 2010, for example, The Almanac reported eight property crimes in Portola Valley, but a summation received from the Sheriff's Office shows 13 property crimes — four additional thefts and an additional auto burglary.

The unreported incidents tended to stay unreported because by the time deputies had finished their paperwork, enough time had passed so that the incidents were no longer considered news, Lt. Lunny said.

Under the policy now in effect, he said, the report will include the basic facts of every incident, including what happened, when it happened, the name and block number of the street on which it happened, and an itemized list with estimates of financial losses, if available.

Menlo Park and Atherton police have online logs updated daily. Can the Sheriff's Office do that? Can't be done, Lt. Lunny said he's been told. Asked to elaborate, he said that staff is not available and that the numbers of crimes "are too great."

In Menlo Park, dispatchers prepare logs during the early morning hours by extracting the necessary facts from officers' barebones reports, said department spokeswoman Nicole Acker.

Couldn't Sheriff's Office dispatchers do the same?

The department is financially strapped and anticipating cuts of up to $10 million in the next budget year while trying to maintain service levels and modernize, Sheriff Greg Munks told The Almanac. In addition, the dispatchers work for the county communications office.

"We could certainly ask (the county) if they could do that," he said, but he noted that internal costs might rise.

The Sheriff's Office has taken over patrol of San Carlos, and the deal came with the former police department's crime-log software, Mr. Munks said. While it may be suitable, it would likely include a more costly contract, he said.

"We're using the scarce resources that we have for frontline boots on the ground and managing an overcrowded jail," he added.


Posted by Dave Ross, a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Feb 2, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I guess the Deputies are too busy cruising Portola Road, yelling at cyclists to stay on the shoulder instead of the roadway, as happened to me recently. Now *that* is what I call "boots on the ground!"

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