San Diego’s crime rate down by 18 percent in 2009


Reported crimes in San Diego fell by nearly 18 percent overall in 2009, compared to the year before, continuing a decades-long downward trend, Mayor Jerry Sanders announced Wednesday.

San Diego residents are “less likely to be victims of crime now than any time since 1963,” the mayor said at a news conference in front of police headquarters.

The mayor’s office released annual statistics compiled by the FBI for seven major crimes: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.There were 28.2 crimes per 1,000 people last year in San Diego, compared to 34.56 in 2008 and 39.8 in 1999, according to the statistics. The crime rate in 2003 was 42.16 per 1,000 residents.”To some extent, San Diego is benefiting from a national trend” of lower crime, Sanders said. The former police chief credited aggressive law enforcement tactics as another reason for the decline.In a statement, Brian Marvel, president of the San Diego Police Officers Association, urged “restraint over celebrating” Wednesday’s crime statistics announcement.Marvel praised the work of the city’s police officers, but said the way crime statistics are compiled might not give the full picture.”When it comes to reviewing crime statistics, as is the case with any data, it is important to remember that the manner of calculating results can be more telling than the actual results,” he said.Marvel said the FBI’s reporting process “does not reflect all crime data,” particularly in large cities like San Diego.”As a result, incomplete data is often used to report on increases or decreases in the crime data,” he said.

Police Chief William Lansdowne cited several reasons for the crime drop, including better intelligence-based policing, more efficient use of resources and improved technology, including alarm systems in homes and businesses, license plate reading machines that help quickly determine if a car is reported stolen and cell phones.”Cell phones make a phenomenal difference in crime reporting without time delay,” Lansdowne said.The total number of crimes dropped 17.7 percent, from 46,412 in 2008 to 38,177 last year, according to the mayor’s office.Violent crime dropped almost 2 percent, from 6,047 to 5,931. Property crimes dropped 20 percent, from 40,365 to 32,246.Homicides dropped from 55 in 2008 to 41 last year, the lowest figure since 1972, Sanders said. He noted San Diego compares well to other cities in the nation. Dallas, with about the same population, had four times as many homicides and Phoenix had three times as many.The only major crime to increase last year was aggravated assault, rising almost 2 percent from 3,597 in 2008 to 3,667 last year.The number of rapes, which had increased from 296 in 2007 to 376 in 2008, dipped to 318 last year.Lansdowne said his officers, working with federal and regional law enforcement, nearly “shut down” incidents of stolen vehicles being taken across the border into Mexico. The 7,496 auto thefts reported last year represented a nearly 30 percent drop from the 10,677 thefts tallied in 2008.Lansdowne said his department also focused on gang violence. Gang- related homicides dropped by 57 percent last year.The chief blamed tough economic times and cuts in mental health services for a rise in domestic violence, suicide and calls involving mental health problems.Lansdowne said he was also concerned about the implications for local law enforcement when an estimated 40,000 state prison inmates are released to save money. About 260 non-violent prisoners were released from San Diego County jails Monday, Lansdowne said.Sanders said the city faces “enormous challenges” ahead, with limited resources that will force police to do more with less.”I make no predictions on the crime rate for next year,” Lansdowne said. “I’m not sure how the economy will go. We may slow down a little in taking (crime) reports after the fact.”

He said the city has proposed cutting 86 civilian positions in the police department, but the move remains under negotiation with the employees’ union. Those cuts were approved by the City Council last month in an effort to close a $179 million spending shortfall.