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San Diego County Report Shows Drop In Violent Crime In 2013

San Diego County Crime Report Shows Drop In Violent Crime In 2013
San Diego County Crime Report Shows Drop In Violent Crime In 2013
GUESTS:San Diego County Sheriff Bill GoreCynthia Burke, Director Criminal Research Division for SANDAG

ALISON ST. JOHN: On to our discussion of crime trends in San Diego County, with Sheriff Billl Gore, good thing that we don't have any bonds to deal with here in San Diego. Thank you so much for joining us. BILL GORE: Thank you for having me. ALISON ST. JOHN: So the latest report on crime in San Diego County, it is out. A lot of people have been watching the trends carefully concerned that realignment, the transfer of thousands of offenders from the county to the state might result in higher crime rates here. This report shows some reassuring news that filing crime is down in most areas anyway. And so, Sheriff Gore, does your experience on the streets reflect what this report is saying that violent crime seems to be on the decrease? BILL GORE: I think that you have to look at violence and property crime overall. Any crime in the region is down, and I like to approach things from a regional standpoint. I would say that the crooks and that guys don't care if they were in El Cajon, San Diego, or are incorporated to the extent that we ñ ALISON ST. JOHN: You guys are not actually responsible for the city, but for the county. BILL GORE: Right, but we try to take a regional approach to crime. So that we take a crime problem and work it through the task force and work with different agencies, so that we don't let those boundaries impact efficient and effective law enforcement. I think that approach to crime fighting is reflected in the statistics. We were concerned about realignment last year when there was a slight uptake, I did not think it was due to realignment that we're concerned about it, and we are watching it. I think this year's statistics reflect that realignment has not impacted crime in the San Diego region, and I think a lot of it is a regional approach to it. ALISON ST. JOHN: Although we really do need to analyze a little bit, because some of the crimes are in fact on the increase, and I want to just ring in Cindy Burke, who is in here from SANDAG. And you have been analyzing the statistics for as long as I can remember, did you find that this was a bit of a relief after last year? I remember you saying we really did not know yet, whether it was going to affect crime in San Diego. With your analysis, what do these statistics tell you now? CYNTHIA BURKE: Well, the stats that we report here are ones that are tracked by the FBI in a standardized way, it is for violent crimes and property crimes. Last year when we were talking about violent crime it was up 7% and it was distressing, whether we would see continued increases. We saw 5% drop this year and I have to be honest, I was surprised to see that much. We are seeing it across the country and all areas of the United States, crime is at an all time low. We're at our second lowest violent crime rate in thirty years. ALISON ST. JOHN: There were some areas where violent crime did not decrease, I understand El Cajon, Chula Vista, Lemon Grove, and Solana Beach. There are some variations in the statistics, right? BILL GORE: I have a problem with the numbers so small, but they are in the crime area, a lot of these could be attributed to a family fight and a domestic violence issue. How do you come up with strategies that will prevent those types of violent acts from occurring? Again, I like to look at trends, and you look back thirty years in this case in crime continues to go down. That shows that we are doing something right, we're working better with our communities and we have better tools to deal with and analytical tools to deal with crime, and there is a regional approach. I think we are moving in the right direction. To get real excited about a little uptake here or there is maybe shortsighted, and we can look at the big picture and see if it continues down ALISON ST. JOHN: So, looking at the big picture, what do you think about that spike last year? Do either of you have any kind of guess as to what could've created the spike? Might it have had to do with the region's law enforcement agencies having to deal with a new influx of prisoners from state prisons? CYNTHIA BURKE: Well you know, property crime did go up under 1%, it is still very low and is the fourth lowest in thirty years. And I think it is, as the sheriff was saying, most crime is property crime, about nine in ten property crimes reported in the regions are property crimes. That really does ride it. We have each day on average about $482,000 worth of property stolen in the San Diego region, which is not a little bit of money. And I think that law enforcement works well together. We think that we are a border community, there isn't more spillover violence, we're really ahead of the country, and the city of San Diego has the third lowest violent and property crime rate over all large US cities. That is important too, when you talk about crime stats and how they change, we are a very diverse community overall. I think that there could be some changes. Somebody said once when you're talking that realignment, it was building an airplane and having to fly as we started, I think that we did have a big change to our justice system. Could this uptake have been related? Why is crime so far down? It could be down for a number of reasons. I think the increases can be the cuts in preventive programs before hand, reduced law enforcement budgets, it could be people getting out of jail and prison, and now we have more systems in place. It is something we need to keep tracking. ALISON ST. JOHN: And Sheriff Gore? BILL GORE: I think you have to look at what Cindy highlighted there, we went through the worst recession since the great depression. Every department including the Sheriff's department downsized. Now we're building back up. ALISON ST. JOHN: Do you have more officers this year than last year and the year before? BILL GORE: Yes, absolutely. We downsized just like everyone else in the county did. ALISON ST. JOHN: What kind of resources are you talking about, 5% or 10%? BILL GORE: We have increased by 240 deputies Sheriff's over two years ago. That is significant. As I look at these crime stats we know that we will never drive the rate to zero. As long as the trend keeps going down, little ups and downs are to be expected. I think it is important how law enforcement reacts to that and with information in policing, I know all of the departments are taking a great advantage of it. You look at the trends, look at the spikes in crime, and you are able to instantly get that data because all of the information at our fingertips and direct resources to address those problems. You'll see in some areas of the county like Ramona, where crime went down 50%. We saw that we had a spike in crime there and we put resources in that part of the county to address it, and boom, we brought down the crime rate. ALISON ST. JOHN: Ramona had crime go down dramatically. Just before we leave violent crime, Cindy can you give us details of violent crime drop, what was the biggest drop? CYNTHIA BURKE: The biggest drop in violent crime was in homicide, that is only 1% of violent crime but in 2012 we had 107 homicides in San Diego, that dropped 33% to 72. And those are people who may know one another, gang-related, or domestic violence. Gang-related was the one that was down the most and that talks to what the sheriff was saying about proactive policing and using intelligence, it is interesting how technology has increased crime in some ways, and also helped law enforcement. I think they're using this technology tools to identify those situations. Robbery was down about 4%, so was aggravated assaults, the one type of robbery that was up with bank robbery. ALISON ST. JOHN: Bank robbery. Okay. And there was an increase in property crimes, I see $175 million worth of property was stolen last year countywide, and very little of it actually got recovered. I guess officers are not focusing attention on recovering it. BILL GORE: Well, it is easier to defense stolen property with the internet and eBay, craigslist, it is easier to get rid of stolen property and that is what we're seeing in the decrease in the amount of property recovered. ALISON ST. JOHN: Right, we're seeing 18% recovered last year compared to 44% recovered in 2004. So, watch out for your stuff is the message, because it is much more difficult to return it now. CYNTHIA BURKE: And the message I try to get out with burglaries is, 54% have been with an open door or window, unlocked door or window, the most common larcenies are with theft from your vehicle. I know that I sound like a broken record when I come on your show, but don't make yourself an easy target. Law enforcement cannot be everywhere. ALISON ST. JOHN: Although I do see that car theft ñ and maybe people have been listening to you, Cindy ñ car theft has dropped to a thirty year low. CYNTHIA BURKE: That is definitely interesting, we have an interesting thing with larceny increasing the most by bicycles. And we're hearing from law enforcement high-end bikes, and some crooks may be using technology also. ALISON ST. JOHN: Isn't that interesting, bicycle theft up 25% and of course more more people are cycling now. BILL GORE: Taking a step back and looking at these charges in last ten years, every category from homicide to motor vehicle that, all of those categories are down in last ten years while the population the county has increased by 5%. ALISON ST. JOHN: I want to go back to the gang issue that Cindy was talking about, what can you tell us about how maybe law enforcement is getting more of a handle on the violent crime committed by gangs? CYNTHIA BURKE: It is something again that we take a regional approach to, there are gang task force is, one in downtown San Diego, East County and North County. So, we put all law enforcement together, not just local but federal and state where appropriate to address this problem as a regional approach, that is why we have been successful. ALISON ST. JOHN: If you were to take a picture in in terms of crime and gangs, the hundreds of gangs in San Diego. Are they on the increase? Are they on the decrease? Are they changing in nature? Are they working different areas than before? BILL GORE: The difference I've seen in gangs are the types of crimes being committed. We see them involved in human trafficking or prostitution, where they have not been involved in the past. They see it unfortunately as a renewable resource, and they take young ladies in the community and kids at risk. Sometimes that are as early as fourteen or fifteen years old, and put them into a life of prostitution and we have seen a change there and we are directing law enforcement efforts in that area as well. ALISON ST. JOHN: I know that perhaps realignment has not had the negative effect that we thought, but we have seen a recidivism rate, a number of crooks that end up back in prison or county jail has jumped from 30% to 70% which means that people must be committing crimes in this county. Is that suggesting that people are involved in property crimes? Is that why we have a high recidivism rate now? BILL GORE: I'm not sure where you got the statistics, prior to realignment the State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the recidivism rate that they established was 72% where up to three years after being released from state prison they were back in state prison. ALISON ST. JOHN: Ours was 30%. BILL GORE: We expect those numbers, our numbers to go up. That is our challenge right now, if we're going to be successful in realignment, we have to lower that recidivism rate. That is what everyone is working very hard to do that. You start by a bringing rehabilitation programming into our facilities and jails when these people that used to be in there for sixty days are now in there for one to two years, so we start the program and there and then have the capability to transition these people back out to the community. To community-based organizations, whether it is drug treatment, that they might need to successfully integrate back into the community. Hopefully they'll have the jobs, that way they are not out burglarizing your house and ending up back in jail. ALISON ST. JOHN: Sheriff commented you actually have to release some people early as a result of the influx? BILL GORE: We have not released any newly sentenced felons, the newly realigned population that now come to our jails, we are not releasing any of them early. We have adjusted our old population and our misdemeanors that used to be in jails. Some are being released, up to 10%, not a dramatic release, but up to 10%, with a lot of them into alternative custody programs. We had to make room for new felons coming into the system, we do that, but taking people that posed a minimal risk to the community. Putting out an alternative custody may be home incarceration with an ankle bracelet, or some other program so we can monitor them in the community. CYNTHIA BURKE: If I can add to that, we are evaluating AB109 and all of the partners at the table. I think that as a member of the community, listeners would want to know that the Sheriff is doing that very smartly and in an intelligent way with the district attorney and probation. They are using evidence-based practice to determine who will be least likely to recidivate. It is not always 100% accurate, there are people who fall through the cracks, but they are doing it in a way to protect public safety. ALISON ST. JOHN: We're coming to the end of our time, and I know that San Diego benefits from having a good relationship with the Sheriff's Department and probation and that really helps. I would like to thank you very much, that is Sheriff Bill Gore and Cynthia Burks who is director of criminal research division for SANDAG. Thank you.

San Diego Regional Crime Report
Report: Thirty Years of Crime in the San Diego Region: 1984 through 2013
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

The latest report on crime in San Diego County is out, and a lot of people have been watching the trends carefully, concerned that realignment — the transfer of thousands of offenders from the state to the county system — might result in higher crime rates here.

But this report has shows some reassuring news, violent crime is down, though property crime is up.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.