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April 11, 2013

How should we understand and react to a small uptick in San Diego's crime rate?

330317_1n11crime_1_t940The question in the title of this post is my reaction to this local article which carries the (problematic?  incomplete?) big and bold headline "County crime increased in 2012."  Here are the basics of the (important? problematic? fascinating?) local California crime story:

The decades-long trend of declining crime across San Diego County took a turn last year, when reported incidents increased by 7 percent.  Regional law enforcement officials say they are concerned, but not certain if there is cause for alarm.

“Nobody in law enforcement likes it when the crime rate goes up,” Sheriff Bill Gore said Wednesday, adding that it is cause for concern.  “Crime rates have been going down for 30 years. We didn’t think crime would go to zero.”

The 2012 numbers were released Wednesday by the San Diego Association of Governments, which each year tallies the seven major crimes tracked by the FBI: homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor theft.

The countywide figures, in rounded numbers, show that reported crimes rose from 76,000 in 2011 to 81,000 in 2012, a 7 percent increase. Violent crimes rose 7 percent, property crimes rose 6 percent.

Crime rose by 7 percent within the city of San Diego, which had 35,000 crimes in 2011 compared to 37,000 in 2012.  Incorporated cities and unincorporated county areas served by the Sheriff’s Department saw an 8 percent increase in crime, from about 16,000 to 17,000.

The local numbers seem to echo, and exceed, a national upward trend in crime figures. “Nationally, for the first six months of 2012, we saw a less than 2 percent increase in the numbers — a slight uptick,” said James Austin, president of nonprofit JFA Institute, a Washington D.C.-based criminal justice research and consulting firm.  “By region, most of that increase is produced in the Northeast and the Western region, and San Diego is part of the Western region. So that is consistent.”

With the 2012 increase in crimes, authorities around San Diego County have asked themselves “Why?” and looked for ways to slam on the brakes.  Some are ready to place at least some of the blame on the state’s public safety realignment law, also known as AB 109. “It’s too early to say,” said Cynthia Burke, director of SANDAG’s criminal justice research division. “It’s something law enforcement is tracking.”...

San Diego police Chief Bill Lansdowne pointed out that in 2011, the city had its lowest crime rate in 42 years. Then came last year’s spike.  There were more homicides, rapes, assaults, home burglaries, larcenies and car thefts.  The only crime category to drop was nonresidential burglaries.

“I believe AB 109 is starting to have an effect on our crime,” Lansdowne said.  He said lower numbers of police officers, because of budget cuts, were also a likely factor.  Gore, too, said financial constraints and staff reductions have had their effect, and he hopes to fill 250 empty deputy positions by mid-2014.

In recent months, Lansdowne said, the department has focused crime-fighting efforts on areas seeing the greatest increases. One result, he said, is that homicides are down by 36 percent so far this year, compared to the same time last year, and gang-related crime is down 86 percent.

He also is hiring more officers, and looking forward to San Diego’s share of a $1.6 million state grant to county law agencies to address AB 109 issues.  Within the county last year, Ramona saw the largest increase in crime — 28 percent — with 546 crimes reported in 2011 and 699 in 2012.  Most of the crime was burglary and theft, said Lt. James Bovet, in charge of the town’s sheriff’s station....

Bovet said he was watching closely last year as the mountain community’s crime figures edged up. “Our overall crime rate is low, but this increase was so dramatic, we had to take some quick steps,” he said. “We analyzed our crime problems and prioritized out staff with more deputies per shift. I tasked my deputies here to pretty much talk weekly to a probationer. We do more to keep track of our known criminals and parolees.”

Bovet said deputies also broke up two burglary rings late last year, making several arrests. “I can tell you, this year, we’ve seen significant decreases in crime,” Bovet said. “We’ll keep monitoring it and do what we can do.”

Assuming the data reported here (both in the text and in the chart) is accurate, the real question/story here for sentencing fans is how should we come to understand this data and react thereto.  For folks who do not like the SCOTUS Plata ruling and/or the realignment plan that it prompted, it is real easy to claim that this crime increase is the fault of activist judges and Governor Jerry Brown.  But for folks who want to defend the SCOTUS Plata ruling and/or the realignment plan that it prompted, it is also real easy to claim that local authorities failed to plan properly for realignment and/or that modern budget cuts and limited funding for police and realted social services is the primary reason crime ticked up.

Perhaps more importantly, perhaps the right "story" and reaction thereto is celebration of government improvements, not finger-pointing and government blame.  As the chart above reveals, crime rates in San Diego, even after the SCOTUS Plata ruling and the realignment plan, remain a historically low level.  And it seems that an small uptick in crime led to local police department reviewing closely whether and how they could do more effectivel crime-fighting for less money.  And, at least according to the "cops on the beat," it now appears that despite realignment AND budget cuts, now  in some areas "homicides are down by 36 percent so far this year, compared to the same time last year, and gang-related crime is down 86 percent."

In other words, despite the short-hand bad-news headline of "County crime increased in 2012," the real story is much more mixed, and a lot of different stories can be told about whether and why the local crime glass is half-full or half-empty.  Unfortunately, while I have the time and energy to think this all through and am inclined to spin this story in a positive way, I suspect the average voter and average politician instead only has time to see the headline and to (over)react to what seems like very bad news concerning both crime and punishment in California.

Some related posts on the great crime decline and modern crime rates: 

April 11, 2013 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

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Comments

It has to be a super natural phenomenau as we all know that imprisoning dudes for next to life is the ONLY factor in making the crime rate go down nationally...Correct...Comprendi..Eh...Bill will chime in and set us all straight on this...

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Apr 11, 2013 12:54:22 PM

MidwestGuy --

"It has to be a super natural phenomenau as we all know that imprisoning dudes for next to life is the ONLY factor in making the crime rate go down nationally...Correct...Comprendi..Eh...Bill will chime in and set us all straight on this..."

Ah, yes. How easy it is to lampoon someone else's position when you fabricate it for him.

In fact, I have made it a point to say that prison is NOT the only factor in making the crime rate go down.

It is a significant factor, however, you bet. Do you disagree? And if so, on what factual basis?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 11, 2013 3:01:16 PM

It is one of many factors..Period.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Apr 11, 2013 3:36:25 PM

MidWestGuy --

No, not period.

First, you intentionally and grossly misrepresented my position. Do I get to misrepresent yours? Is that OK?

Second, since you now concede that imprisonment was one of the factors that led to a crime decrease, I want to know specifically how much additional crime you think is acceptable when we decrease imprisonment.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 11, 2013 3:45:26 PM

Crime in Los Angeles is down so far in 2013, report says


By Joel Rubin

April 5, 2013, 1:54 p.m.

With the first quarter of 2013 in the books, crime in Los Angeles is continuing its decade-long decline, according to statistics released Friday.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck announced the notable gains at a press conference that served as a swan song for the mayor, who will leave office this summer after being termed out. More than anything else, the continued drop in crime has been a reliable, powerful success for the mayor to trumpet throughout his time in office.

Through the end of March, overall violent crime was down nearly 14% compared with the same period last year – a drop of 593 incidents, the city figures showed. Property crimes, such as burglary and auto theft, were down about 7% for the same period.

more

Posted by: George | Apr 11, 2013 4:40:50 PM

Oh please, San Diego County with a population of almost 3.2 million people and presently looking at historically low crime rates, a slight blip of 7% sounds like someone is looking to justify more taxpayer money to pad their payrolls. Considering the source of the article was from that right wing demagogue of a publisher of the San Diego Union, Doug Manchester, I'd say it's a cheap shot to drive up a failing papers circulation by overstating the importance of a slight uptick in the statistics and inflame the crime fears of San Diegans in general.

Posted by: Native Son | Apr 11, 2013 5:26:36 PM

"Oh please, San Diego County with a population of almost 3.2 million people and presently looking at historically low crime rates, a slight blip of 7% sounds like someone is looking to justify more taxpayer money to pad their payrolls."

Unless, of course, it happens to be you or a member of your family who gets hurt by a criminal who would have been locked up but for Obama's lousy appointments and a rigged three-judge panel.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 11, 2013 10:53:58 PM

% % How should we understand and react to a small uptick in San Diego's crime rate? % %

By questioning realignment?

Posted by: Adamakis | Apr 11, 2013 11:13:39 PM

@Bill, below is my statement...
"It has to be a super natural phenomenau as we all know that imprisoning dudes for next to life is the ONLY factor in making the crime rate go down nationally...Correct...Comprendi..Eh...Bill will chime in and set us all straight on this..."

Nowhere does it say or even imply that this is your viewpoint...Merely says that you will jump in and set us all straight....Which you have tried to do...

Then here is your next reply:
MidWestGuy --

No, not period.

First, you intentionally and grossly misrepresented my position. Do I get to misrepresent yours? Is that OK?

Second, since you now concede that imprisonment was one of the factors that led to a crime decrease, I want to know specifically how much additional crime you think is acceptable when we decrease imprisonment.
-----------------------------------------
You assume that if we reduce prison at all, that crime will go up... Thats not a good stance being an ex federal AUSAO Bill...Auto assume if we reduce prison time, crime will go up... not good. Even a little. Its thinking like this that has caused the guidelines to be what they are today and the continuing efforts to lengthen drug sentences, not lessen them...At present there is no end of the War On Drugs in site. Only longer and longer sentences.... Can you explain this Bill.... Almost 100% of all drug cases in our district has absolutely no violence associated with the activity....

Nor does the 1000 ft add on do one measely thing to keep kids safe.. Its a protected area... They just keep making more places protected so they can lenghten the sentences.. First it was schools, then parks, then playgrounds...
Its pretty tough not to find a playground in a metro area, not within 1000 ft of anywhere...Its also a prong in the life sentence, which is a crock....No doubt the makers of the guidelines had good system background, to tie all of this together....But to try and pedal this as mandatory... Another flaw along with the powder/crack misnomer was judges making owi's a crime of violence.. It doesn't take Wiley E Coyoye super genius to know that an owi is not a violent crime...Specifically, lack of mens rea...Judge McConnel indicated this in his dissent...No matter how many dui's one has they arenot a crime of violence..

So Bill, how do you stand with Ex. Judge Jack Camp... And you reccommended Scooter Libby for Commutation.... Shame on you....

Bill, some of this is just jerking your chain, ok..
But what is your take on Judge Jack Camp?
Your views on dui's when they were a crime of violence.
Scooter Libby means zero to me, so don't waste a breathe on it..Ok..

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Apr 12, 2013 3:21:49 PM

considering that there continue to be more and more laws added to the books, could it be possible there is more crime because there are more laws to break?

Posted by: folly | Apr 12, 2013 3:48:40 PM

@folly
With young people I think you have hit the nail on the head.
Your Post:
considering that there continue to be more and more laws added to the books, could it be possible there is more crime because there are more laws to break?
My response:
Take youngsters out of high school..They like to party and some just don't get it, when it comes to OWI"S...They get one and their license is revoked for 6 months... During the time, they drive some and get another owi...Uh Oh....Now its a yr of revocation and an even bigger fine, and more classes and more attorney fees... This is the big juncture...Those that don't get it...Get another owi and its a felony this time....But they are still in the dream of its only driving while drinking a few beers.
Well .08 not sure how many beers for say 170 lb ladd....Then their life has changed big time.
They cannot hunt or be near ammo, for fear of the Federal thugs for sure....So in a sense life is not the same when I grew up for sure...Cops were takiong kids home as long as they didn't get out of line..
These days, cops wait outside of beer joints and can't wait to write up owi recepients...Speeding and ow's are not mulligans anymore....You are in trouble, for sure..

Drugs is just an entire new book on the path kids take...Basically total ruination...

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Apr 12, 2013 4:36:58 PM

MidWestGuy --

1. Your unmistakable implication was that I believe incarceration is the ONLY (you used the caps) cause of the big drop in crime -- since, as you put it, I was going to "set straight" those in disagreement. But I believe no such thing, as you must have known.

2. "You assume that if we reduce prison AT ALL, that crime will go up..." [emphasis added]

There you go again.

I assume no such thing. If we release 10 or 20 or 100 people from prison, there will be no statistically detectable increase in crime. But the "incarceration nation" crowd is hardly recommending such a tepid release. They are shrewdly careful in stonewalling about how many inmates, exactly, they want released, but it's absolutely obvious they want major reductions. From what we know from about 25 years of crime and incarceration statistics, that is going to produce more crime. (It may already be producing more crime in California, although it's probably too early to draw a conclusion).

3. "At present there is no end of the War On Drugs in site. Only longer and longer sentences.... Can you explain this Bill.... "

Be happy to. Congress makes the law, and the Executive executes it. The Controlled Substances Act is almost 40 years old, and not once in that time has Congress or the Executive, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, sought to repeal or even weaken the CSA. This is through 20 Congressional elections, mind you.

So the explanation is that your position is popular on this board but a consistent flop with the electorate.

4. "Almost 100% of all drug cases in our district has absolutely no violence associated with the activity...."

Then your district is on a different planet from my district, where violence, witness intimidation, extortion and murder are the tools of the trade in the drug business. You might also want to check out what drug gangs are doing in Chicago and LA.

5. "So Bill, how do you stand with Ex. Judge Jack Camp..."

I don't stand with him. If it had been my case, there would have been a different attitude.

"And you reccommended Scooter Libby for Commutation.... Shame on you...."

Many of my friends in this town are mad at me for the opposite reason, to wit, that I did not press the White House for a pardon. But I had my share of high profile stuff, and I'm used to criticism. Comes with adult life.

6. "Bill, some of this is just jerking your chain, ok..."

You're actually one of my favorite posters. You call 'em as you see 'em, you don't put on airs, you don't engage in faux legal scholarship, you're not particularly ideological, you can get wound up but it's not your main thing, etc.

I do wish you would just let me state my own positions and make my own assumptions, but, by-and-large, you're a breath of fresh air here.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 12, 2013 6:28:32 PM

@Bill Otis
My 1st post just said Bill...But you were 100% sure it was directed at you Bill Otis...But at that juncture, you just assumed.

4. "Almost 100% of all drug cases in our district has absolutely no violence associated with the activity...."

Then your district is on a different planet from my district, where violence, witness intimidation, extortion and murder are the tools of the trade in the drug business. You might also want to check out what drug gangs are doing in Chicago and LA.

Bill, why should I consider Chicago or LA, I don't live there..Thats the exact reason for my point that the feds
need to leave more for the local area to do... We don't have violence in our area. [emphasis not added]

I do think we are in agreement that a certain group needs to go away...Its just the length of time that we differe on.
As well as all the Mickey Mouse enhancements that are so easily dished out.. When someone gets a downward variance,
it a big enough deal that they make it to this sote..

I have trouble in believing half the sentence from a group that couldnot understand that owi's were not a crime of violence.
All it took was a very smart man, Judge McConnel who dissented and had had some courage and did so fluently.
Simply becasue of Mens Reas, no intent at all.. How could AUSA and Judges mess this one up..Strike 3, your out of here.
When such a group (Feds) continues to add on such enhancements for such triveal and wrongful actions, I doubt
the entire Federal Guidelines.. Also increases in sentences are referred to as enhancements, they need to get Bent.

As I've said before, I noticed years ago that psuedo calcs to MJ equivlant is 5 times higher than meth.
This a huge error in the drug equiv guidelines...
As well as the 1000ft rule... Especially when it had nothing to do with the protected location and
doesnot keep children safer...Now if your selling on the grounds or street corner adjacent to.
In others words, plain open sight and obvious to children in the area, that a big difference.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Apr 15, 2013 2:29:09 PM

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