With staffing levels on the rise, the Lodi Police Department’s investigations division is ready to get back to proactive policing.
“Looking into 2020 and beyond it looks to be a good year for the investigations division as our staffing gets better,” Lt. Shad Canestrino told the Lodi City Council during a presentation detailing 2018 crime data at Tuesday’s shirtsleeve session. “We have a lot of young officers on patrol, and once they get off patrol then we can fill our investigations division.”
Lodi’s investigations division consists of three units: Special Investigations Unit, specializing in gangs, narcotics and vice investigations; Code Enforcement, specializing in enforcement of city code, licensing, and quality of life issues; and the Investigations Unit, specializing in sex crimes, arson, special registrations and homicides. The department currently has five vacancies across all three units, according to Canestrino.
The investigations division currently has four full-time investigators as well as one part-timer who works on the Assembly Bill 109 task force. In 2011, the state Legislature passed Assembly Bill 109, which shifted responsibility for non-violent, non-serious, and non-high risk sex offenders released from state prisons to local agencies. Due to overcrowding at the San Joaquin County Jail at the time of the bill’s passage, former Lodi Police Chief Mark Helms worked with different police departments in the county to form a Community Corrections Partnership Task Force, comprised of officers from Lodi, Stockton, Manteca and Tracy.
“At full staffing levels we should have 10 investigators filling most, if not all our vacant positions for the first time in almost a decade,” Canestrino said.
When more manpower becomes available, the department plans to take on more sting operations aimed at catching child predators, massage parlor and prostitution rings, and package thefts.
Despite limited staffing in recent years, Canestrino said each investigations unit has had its share of success over the past two years.
“Code enforcement officers handled about 800 cases in 2019, 648 were closed and they currently have about 150 to 200 cases still open, which is not uncommon,” he said.
Canestrino added that 114 guns used to facilitate a crime or that were illegally configured have been taken off the street since 2018. He also noted that successful busts — he cited a full-scale butane hash/honey oil lab that yielded more than 6,000 pounds of marijuana and over 300 pounds of butane hash oil — may be responsible for fewer drugs being recovered in 2018.
Homicides have also decreased, from nine in 2018 to three last year, Canestrino said.
“Of the nine homicides, seven cases have been solved and possible suspects have been identified for the remaining two homicides for 2018 and arrests have been made for two of the three homicides in 2019,” Canestrino said.
He added that gang activity and arrests were down from 21 in 2018 to 13 last year.
Canestrino reported that 70 child abuse cases were investigated last year, adding that there are currently 90 known sex offenders that require registration in the city and about 12 arson registrants.
Looking ahead, the investigations division will take on more cold cases as a result of a San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury report that found there are more than 500 cold cases in San Joaquin County, including 12 homicide victims whose remains have never been positively identified.
“We currently have a district attorney investigator assigned to us part-time,” Canestrino said. “We have identified approximately 15 cold case homicides, we are still going through sexual assault cases and missing persons cases, and we recently just cleared one of our cold cases,” he said.
Canestrino finished his presentation thanking city staff and the council for helping pass Measure L, a half-cent sales tax increase that is expected to add more than $5 million annually to the city’s general fund.
“Measure L provided funding for us to get to a staffing point to that we can get back to getting proactive,” Canestrino said.