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Crime’s Up In San Diego; Police Chief Wants More Resources

San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman is shown at the City Council inauguration ceremony, Dec. 10, 2014.
Angela Carone
San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman is shown at the City Council inauguration ceremony, Dec. 10, 2014.

Report: San Diego Crime Up In 2015
Report: San Diego Crime Up In 2015 GUEST: Shelly Zimmerman, police chief, San Diego Police Department

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, it's Wednesday, February 3. Worst top story the 2015 crime statistics for the city of San Diego are out. And they show crime rates up for the first time since 2012. Although the number of crimes in San Diego remain a what the please call historic lows, rates have jumped considerably with an overall increase of 8.5%. I spoke with San Diego police chief Shelly Zimmerman. Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. These numbers reflect an increase in just about every crime from robberies to rapes to murder. Do you find the statistics disturbing? Anytime you have an increase in crime that that's a concern. We do want to make sure we put it in perspective and the part one crimes we are talking about is murder, rape, robbery aggravated assault and vehicle theft. Overall they rose 8.5% and although it did increase in 2015, we have to keep in mind in the year 2014 experienced the lowest overall crime in 46 years. So we are still at historic lows. The number of sexual assault in the crime stats for this year it has also increased by some new definitions of the crime by the FBI. That's correct. There's additional crimes that were included in the rate category and those were appropriate additional crimes that should be included in that category. But that drug those stats in that category -- as we took the old definition, and compared it to the old definition of 2014 two 2015, that rape actually decreased 3%, but comparing the stats from 2015 and the old definition to the new one in 2015, that's where you saw that you to increase. And that's what drove the number of violent crimes as we showed for that category up 7.1%. In reality, we took the old definition, it was up 3.1%. I think what you're talking about is the kind of thing that drives people crazy about statistics. Let me ask you this way, what are some of the increases your seeing the trouble you the most? Anytime you see any increase in crime -- is not just a number, that's a victim. At the concern. As we drill down into the numbers, the one category that showed the largest increase was left. As a matter of fact, the theft category accounted for 83% of the overall total increase. Specifically as we looked into the theft category -- there are many different types, specifically what we saw were cars, shoplifting and theft from vehicles. As we looked at that, crime does fluctuate over time for many reasons. I have to tell you, it would be naïve to ignore the impacts on crime related to proposition 47's reduction of many of the drug and theft related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Can you remind us why prop 47 would lead to increased thefts from vehicles for instance? What would cause that? What we find in individuals that are under the influence of drugs, they often support their habit by committing theft. I've spoken to many individuals and are also's -- officers have as well who tell us that. That the concern. When a felony -- when they have an opportunity to go to drug court and now that it's a misdemeanor, many of those individuals no longer have the incentive to go to drug court. Knowing it's a misdemeanor the first time, the second and the third. Something else that the concern, when we are dealing with a B109 our prison realignment -- the state provided funding for us to assist the probation department in connecting probation checks of those individuals that were now or let out from the jails and that we now do probation checks. What concerns us this year is that funding was cut in half. So were going to have to make sure we have strategies in place on the surface -- looks like we would only be able to do half the compliance checks. One of the reasons we were able to reduce some of those crimes and make sure it didn't reoffend was because of those compliance checks. Those that were under a B109 probation new we were going to come out there and make sure they were not committing additional crimes. Also in the property seven category, would be a B109 individuals. Without 109 being cut in half that will pose more challenges to us. Chief Zimmerman, your predecessor was an enthusiastic supporter prop said -- 47. Do these numbers indicate putting that in was a mistake? I think everybody understands that we can put someone into treatment to make sure they no longer -- are under the influence of narcotics. That's great. We want to prevent crime and people to get treatment. But what do you do when somebody refuses to go to treatment? I'm all for getting individuals into treatment. I think everyone understands that. The issue I had with proposition 47 is that there is no incremental penalties. What do you do if someone says, no we aren't going to treatment, no I'm not interested in drug court and I&D incentivized to go there because it's a misdemeanor every time. There's no incremental penalties. Those are some of the huge challenges. You'll be reporting these findings to the public safety Council today. What will you recommend the city due to bring the crime stats down? I'm very grateful to the made -- Mayor and city Council because we are able to hire police officers. Were able to hire professional staff and communications division in our crime lab. We're hiring within our police department. Anybody who is listening, if you're looking for a career where you can make a positive difference in someone's life every day, we went to hear from you to become a police officers. Those are some of the things again we will be talking about. To make sure we had continue to hire some -- I'm grateful to our city Council and again in our community precinct philosophy, a lot of these crimes we spoke about in the theft related crimes, they are preventable crimes. As he speak about -- do not leave items visible in your vehicles, Walker doors, Dr. Windows -- again Public Safety is a shared responsibility between our community which we proudly serve in our police department. When we ask our community to get involved -- if you see something or hear something, go ahead and give us a call. You see in the crime shall -- stats we responded also to more than 5000 emergency calls last year. A lot of those emergency calls involved individuals who are threatening to commit suicide or there were people down such as they were overdosed from using narcotics. We would prefer to prevent someone getting into that crisis mode. If somebody knows that someone needs assistance that don't hesitate to call us. San Diego police chief Shelly Zimmerman, thank you so much. Thank you.

The number of crimes reported in San Diego increased last year compared to the year before, according to a police report presented to a City Council committee Wednesday afternoon.

During the presentation, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman asked the City Council to continue providing her with resources to hire new employees to help the department overcome sworn and civilian staffing shortages.


“It’s having the ability to increase our academics (for new officers), having the ability to hire our police dispatchers, our crime lab and police officers,” she said. “We’re playing catch-up. It didn’t take us one year to get in this situation with our staffing and other issues, and we’re not going to get out of it in one year.”

Zimmerman said the department was 189 officers short of its budgeted allotment, and had 25 dispatcher vacancies. Two dispatchers are being hired currently, while 73 others are going through background checks, she added.

Retention of experienced officers has been a problem for the police department in recent years, as neighboring agencies have poached cops with offers of higher take-home pay.

The exact amount of the increase in local crime in 2015 varies because of a change in the FBI's definition of rape.

Using the old definition to create an apples-to-apples comparison, overall crime rose 7.8 percent in the city year over year, making it the first increase in three years. Using the new rape definition, overall crime was 8.5 percent higher.


“Anytime that you have an increase in crime, that’s a concern, but we do want to make sure that we put it in perspective,” Zimmerman told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday. “We are still very much at historic lows.”

The crime category that saw the largest increase was theft, which rose 13.4 percent to 18,933 incidents in 2015.

Zimmerman called thefts “preventable” crimes, and she encouraged residents to lock the doors of their vehicles and to not leave valuables inside and visible.

Among the key numbers from the police crime report: :

• Murders rose from 32 in 2014 to 37 last year, still a small number for a city of nearly 1.36 million people.

• Rapes, a category that now includes oral copulation, sodomy and male victims of sex crimes, climbed from 371 to 556.

• Robberies jumped 4.6 percent to nearly 1,400.

• Aggravated assaults were up 3.1 percent to just over 3,600.

• Burglaries were flat at just over 5,100.

• Almost 5,100 auto thefts occurred, a small climb from the previous year.

The bulk of the large increase in the thefts category came from an 8.7 percent jump in vehicle break-ins.

Hate crimes were about the same, 36 last year compared to 37 the year before. While the number of incidents related to ethnicity and sexual orientation fell, the number of hate crimes involving religion rose from three in 2014 to seven last year, according to the police.

The 2015 rate of violent crimes was 4.1 per 1,000 residents, down from 5.1 per 1,000 in 2005, according to the report. The property crime rate was 21.3 per 1,000, well below the 35.4 per 1,000 recorded a decade ago.

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