Shoplifting leads the way as ­Concord chief details 2023 crime

Concord Police station. (Pete Cruz photo)
Concord Police Chief Mark Bustillos.

CONCORD, CA (Apr. 22, 2024) — In a surprise to no one, Police Chief Mark Bustillos reported an increase in shoplifting, burglaries and stolen vehicles during his annual report to the City Council on April 9.

From 2022 to ’23, shoplifting was up a whopping 76 percent – from 227 to 401. Burglary/breaking and entering went from 500 to 528, and there were 203 robberies, compared to 182. While thefts from motor vehicles actually showed a decline from 1,253 to 944, vehicle theft jumped to 812 from 735.

In fact, most crime numbers were up, but the chief attributed part of that to a change in reporting with the new National Information Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

“Gross numbers do look larger, but we’re counting the number of incidences per event,” he said. “If I rob you with a firearm, and then I punch you and then I drag you 20 feet, the way NIBRS counts that is a kidnapping, a robbery and an assault – there’s three felonies. Previously, that would be one crime.”

Looking at the numbers

There was a slight decrease in homicides, from 5 to 4. But, simple assaults rose 28 percent, from 763 to 978.

“We have a population in Concord that doesn’t solve their problems with words – they solve it with violence,” Bustillos said. “But we don’t have a lot of random assaults. We have very few events where it’s a stranger assaulting another person.”

Aggravated assaults were down 30%, with the chief noting that 9% involved assaults on law enforcement but only 0.2% were gang-related.

Meanwhile, the incidences of kidnapping/abduction increased to 59 from 38. That number includes “anytime you violently move a person against their will,” the chief said, adding that many are related to domestic violence.

Bustillos told the council that his department is getting more guns off the street – collecting 381 compared to 293 the previous year.

For the first time, the chief reported on officer use of force, saying he thought it was “super important” to highlight.

“The numbers speak for themself: We use force less than 1 percent of the time.”

More good news

Bustillos listed some of the department’s “investigative wins” in 2023, including:

  • Solving a 2021 homicide through phone data, license plate readers (LPRs) and DNA technology.
  • Joining a multi-agency investigation into organized retail thefts totaling $650,000. “It led to an apartment that looked like Costco: diapers on the left, razors over there.”
  • Arrest for a murder linked to a fentanyl overdose.

The department’s partnership with the county’s A3 (Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime) team for mental health response is another source of pride for the chief. In 2003, there were 300 A3 calls, with A3 responding alone to 80. Both A3 and a Concord officer went to 47 calls.

“Anytime we’re diverting sworn staff from these types of calls, we can go to our higher priority ones and get to our quality-of-life calls,” Bustillos said. “So it gives us more capacity.”

The A3 calls came from all over the city. “It doesn’t matter your income strata or where you live, mental health has affected everyone,” he noted.

The chief pointed to enhanced public safety through the department’s use of drones, which aided in 28 search and rescues and 338 law enforcement operations. LPRs and the Community Camera Registry also boost the department’s ability to solve crimes.

Tools for residents include an interactive online map showing reported crimes and the Concord Connect app, which has seen increased usage for non-emergency issues. “Those are 6,000 calls we don’t have to go out on,” Bustillos said.

On the wish list

Councilmember Laura Hoffmeister asked the chief how he would improve the department if he “won the lottery.”

“It’s traffic – I don’t even need to think about it,” he replied. “I wouldn’t make half the meetings I’d have to go to if I started pulling over all the red-light runners.”

In response to Mayor Edi Birsan’s question about future technology needs, he talked about enhanced drones now being tested.

“That would be a drone launched from the roof of the police department if you get a hot call: Shots fired, person down. The drone is able to respond faster than our officers and verify the call,” he said.

“The other area is really the philosophical question of how do you use the data that you are able to collect,” Bustillos added. “Being data driven, we want to make proof of concept that it’s gonna help us do our jobs better.”

Bev Britton
Bev Britton
Copy Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer |

Bev Britton graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of North Dakota and moved to the Bay Area with her soon-to-be husband Jim in 1986. She was features editor at the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek before becoming managing editor of the Contra Costa Sun in Lafayette in 1995. She retired from newsrooms in 2001, but an ad for the Clayton Pioneer drew her back in. The family moved to Lake Wildwood in the Gold Country a few years ago - but working at the Pioneer keeps her in touch with her old neighborhoods in Concord and Clayton.