SEASIDE - Most criminal activity in Seaside went down in 2008, according to statistics compiled by the Seaside Police Department.

But some crimes took an upswing.

Serious crimes - including assault, rape, thefts and motor vehicle thefts - decreased by 6 percent from 2007, although robbery, burglary and arson increased.

Less serious crimes - forgery, fraud, vandalism and drugs - went down by 28 percent, with no single category increasing.

Police Chief Robert Gross presented the department's annual report to the City Council at the council's meeting Monday night.

While the news generally was good, Gross said, "We still have more work to do."

Robberies increased from four in 2007 to six in 2008; burglaries rose from 68 to 83; and arson went up from two to seven incidents.

Of the 547 serious, or "Part One" crimes committed in Seaside last year, 178 - 33 percent - were solved and cleared. In 2007, only 29 percent of the Part One crimes were cleared.

Police officers and investigators resolved 66 percent of 814 less serious, or "Part Two" crimes last year.

Drug and narcotics offenses also decreased, as well as arrests. Those arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants totaled 74, compared with 78 in 2007. There were 256 arrests made for minors in possession of alcohol and 15 arrests for furnishing alcohol to minors. In 2007, MIP arrests totaled 272, and furnishing arrests were 23.

The arrests were made through undercover operations and "consistent enforcement of zero tolerance toward underage drinking in Seaside," Gross said.

Seaside police made 191 juvenile arrests, with liquor offenses dominating at 83, followed by larceny at 35, curfew at 18 and vandalism at nine. Arson accounted for eight arrests and drugs for five.

This year, Gross said the department will continue its Citizens Academy and merchants alert programs that help people understand the department's operations and warn of criminal activity in the area. A neighborhood watch program will be established, as well as an area crime stoppers program, he said, The chief will work to create a school enforcement officer's position.

In other business, the council agreed to allocate $50,000 from the city's contingency fund to the Seaside Tourism Advisory Committee.

Mikaela Norval, the city's tourism director, made the request for a "tourist stimulus plan" to do advertising and marketing "during this extraordinary time in our economy." She said she understood that the allocation would be a "loan against future advertising budgets" from the city.

The marketing would focus on the Portland and Seattle markets from April 15 through June 15, targeting young professionals, "empty nesters" and retirees through the Internet and radio advertising or billboards. The message in the new marketing campaign will show Seaside as a "high value" in this economy.

"Our goal is to drive traffic and overnight stays to Seaside to take advantage of the current economic situation. We hope this is not just a one-time relationship with these potential new customers but just the beginning of a long relationship," Norval said.

Although people aren't willing to forego their vacations, indicators show they are "trading down" from luxury markets and destinations requiring plane flights to places such as Hawaii, Disneyland and Las Vegas, she added.

"This positions Seaside in a very nice place, particularly since we are an easy drive from two large metropolitan areas," Norval said.

Terri Bichsel, owner of Best Western and Rivertide Suites, said the Seaside lodging tax was down in 2008 over 2007. "We haven't seen that in a lot of years," he said.

Statistics show that 58 percent of all vacationers are "trading down," Bichsel added. "Markets like Hawaii and Las Vegas that were considered stalwarts have suffered serious declines in the last 12 to 18 months," said Bichsel, adding that the hospitality and hotel industry expects a 10- to 20- percent decline in room revenue in 2009.

That 10 percent, he noted, would usually provide profits and capital for facility improvements.

"We can't do this by ourselves," he said. "This is a big-picture deal."

While he agreed with the tourism committee's request, he added, "It's not enough."

"I wouldn't be surprised if we weren't here by June or July asking for more," he added. "Unfortunately, we have a bad trend line going, and we're seeing it with our own city and our city tax collections. We're getting smacked in the face here."

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