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San Diego Crime Drops Despite Smaller Police Force

Overall crime rates fell in San Diego last year, despite a smaller police force. The police chief credits a new method of policing.

— In 2011 San Diego saw a 4.3 percent decrease in the total number of crimes compared with 2010. Violent crimes fell about 9 percent. The lower crimes rates come despite a smaller police force, which has seen its staffing levels and resources reduced amid years of budget cuts. Chief William Lansdowne said that’s because the way the department fights crime has changed over the years.

"We have, what we call today, intelligence-led policing,” he said. “It’s using technology and working with community to get us the information, not just to catch people involved in crime, but it’s designed to prevent crime.”

Crime did tick up in one area; there were 38 murders in 2011, nine more than the year before. Lansdowne attributes the increase to domestic-violence cases. Still, San Diego's crime rate in 2011 remained at levels not seen since the 1960s and 1970s. But the drop in crime begs the question: Does funding need to be fully restored if the department’s been so successful with less? San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said, yes.

“I don’t believe that we can further reduce the police department. I don’t think it’s wise to do that,” he said. “I think they’re working very hard and they’re working in very innovative ways. But we need to start thinking about adding back in a reasoned way.”

The San Diego Police Department graduated 18 officers from its academy this week as it moves to restore its ranks following a year-long hiring freeze. Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman said the 18 are the survivors of a class of 25 that started six months ago, and are about to undergo field training.

"We're actively hiring. We encourage people to come out (and apply),'' Zimmerman said.

The assistant chief said the SDPD is 150 short of its budgeted total of 1,969 sworn officers. The department is also looking to hire civilian employees, she said. The current hiring spree is intended to keep the SDPD at budgeted levels, not to increase manpower, Zimmerman and Sanders said.

City News Service contributed to this report

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