We contacted Elk Grove Police Department Chief Robert Lehner to ask him about the concerns of crime and the possible future Wilton Rancheria Casino in Elk Grove. His comments on the issue are below.
As part of evaluating potential effects of a casino on Elk Grove, we are performing a fairly extensive review of casinos and the crime effects they have on the communities in which they are located and have some preliminary information, as follows. I would be hesitant to look at crime numbers alone, especially if you don’t have the ability to separate out those associated with the casino itself, there are too many other factors involved in crime increases and decreases, which is why we reached out to the jurisdictions directly to make this assessment.
Crime, primarily theft-related crime, increases in communities when casinos are opened and present. Crime is, however, associated with the casino property and does not appear to have effect, if so not significant, in the non-casino areas nearby. This is what we expected. It is not unlike the opening of a major retailer. When a big retailer opens, there is some measure of shoplifting that always increases (I will defer my usual tirade about Proposition 47 here but consider it inserted). There will be a crime increase associated with the casino. There are many potential theft targets available in the form of parked cars in the parking lot, the most common crime committed. Its victims and suspects will be those who attend the casino, likely not the nearby neighborhoods that, for the most part, don’t yet exist. We are also finding some fraud-related activity increase but the casino itself is usually the victim, the passing of counterfeit bills, for example.
We are also finding that casinos have extremely sophisticated security programs, much more so than the typical business. Though crime cannot be eliminated, it can be mitigated and kept in reasonable balance through the use of effective security. The law enforcement agencies of jurisdiction where casinos are located report a very good working relationship with the casinos and we do not expect our experience to be any different. There is a mechanism to discuss how a Tribe mitigates cost associated with police responses and we will be having that discussion with the Tribe should this project move forward
There is more to degradation to crime but, overall, we are not finding a link between a casino and crime-related degradation nearby. We would, of course, expect that a casino locating in Elk Grove employ modern security strategies and cooperate with EGPD in crime and security-related matters. I am reasonably confident that they will simply from a business perspective – if they want people to come to their casino, it should be perceived as safe. Still, I think that is a better question to ask Tribal leaders to address in their public meetings.