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Violent crime, property crime rises in San Diego County in 2021

A study just released by the San Diego Association of Governments found that despite historic low crime rates in the county, there was an increase in violent crimes. KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado spoke with the Data Science Director at SANDAG and the police officer’s union president for some insight.

Violent crime in San Diego County increased in 2021, a report released Tuesday by the San Diego Association of Governments found.

The annual report, "42 Years of Crime in the San Diego Region: 1980 through 2021," found homicide, rape and aggravated assault increased 3%, 11% and 12% respectively in 2021.

"While the 2021 crime rates are historic lows for our region, violent and property crimes were up last year," SANDAG Senior Director of Data Science Cynthia Burke said. "By using the data that SANDAG has collected over the past four decades, we have a much better understanding of crime patterns throughout our communities, helping public safety agencies and policymakers develop reduction strategies that more effectively address what is happening today."

For homicide cases where a motive could be determined, 32% were related to an argument and 18% were gang-related. Aggravated assaults with a firearm increased by 18%. Violent crime against senior citizens increased by 10% and reported domestic violence increased by 3%. Arsons saw an 18% decrease.

"I think what we saw in 2020 was just really something that I hadn’t seen since I’ve been doing this again we go back to 1980, historically we’re still at 42 year lows roughly, but we saw big jumps one of the biggest one year jumps that I’ve seen back from 2020 to 2021 both in violent crimes and property crimes," said Burke.

Robbery, also categorized as a violent crime, decreased in 2021 to the lowest rates since SANDAG began measuring crime rates in the region. Burglaries were at an all-time low in 2021, and when compared to rates since 1980, they continued a nine-year downward trend.

Burke said while the pandemic accounts for some of the decrease the previous year not all of the uptick can be attributed to the lockdowns. "When you delve into some of the statistics some of the changes that we saw were aggravated assaults are over the past five years or so are increasing on a more larger trend and I would say the same for larcenies and motor vehicle theft."

Property crime rates increased by 9% from 2020, with nearly one in every 68 residents falling victim. Despite this, property crime rates are still the second-lowest during the past 42 years. Theft of motor vehicle parts was up 71%, with catalytic converters being stolen most often.

According to the new SANDAG report, an average of $668,000 was stolen per day in 2021, and only about one-third of the value of stolen property was recovered.

Sergeant Jared Wilson, the president of the San Diego Police Officers Association said the crime rate in the city is even higher. "We were up 10% violent crime up around 13% in property crime so our numbers the city of San Diego are higher than the region in general and probably dragging the region up." Wilson also said that guns play a big role. "The amount of guns we’re seeing on the street is really unprecedented for this current generation of officers." And he says the study’s finding that most of the homicides were a result of an argument is a real concern – especially since their response times are up dramatically. "How many these arguments are just escalating to the point where a simple law enforcement intervention, without an arrest, with just a de-escalation tactic, could’ve worked and we’re not making it to those calls in time."

Both Burke and Wilson agreed that the study is a good tool that if used properly can can help create safer communities.

"Even saying that we have fewer homicides now than we did in the late 1980s and 1990s early 1990s – that one homicide is one homicide too many. So again, how can we work together to make San Diego safe place for everybody equitably? How do we engage in those challenging conversations?" said Burke.

"If we don’t act on the data and we don’t get back to community policing and preventing some of these crimes before they happen the numbers are just going to grow and a double digit increase in crime should be concerning for everyone," said Wilson.

SANDAG has reported regional crime statistics for the San Diego region since 1980, releasing reports related to crime rates, arrests, drug use and an annual public safety spending report for the region — which will be released later this year.