The Coast News Group

County safer than average despite increase in violent crime

San Diego County is generally safer than the U.S. as a whole, though elder abuse and several types of violent crime are on the rise locally, according to a report released April 20.

San Diego Association of Governments’ Criminal Justice Research Division Director Cynthia Burke presented the report, which compiled regional crime data from 1980 to 2017, to the agency’s Public Safety Committee.

Property crimes, in particular, hit a 38-year low in San Diego County last year with 56,793 reported cases: a rate of 17.13 cases per 1,000 people.

Figures from 2016, the newest available national statistics, also show the 2016 local property crime rate of 18.67 was lower than the nation, which had a 24.51 property crime rate. In contrast, San Diego County featured a higher property crime rate than the U.S. in 1980.

Larcenies represented most of the local property crimes, 67 percent, committed in 2017. Vehicle thefts made up 17 percent and burglaries another 16 percent, including an alarming number of unforced burglaries through unlocked windows and doors, Burke said.

“It blows me away how many burglaries are done without forced entry,” Burke said to the committee. “Don’t make yourself an easy target.”

Though reported property crimes fell, there were 11,289 violent crimes in 2017, a 2 percent increase over 2016. The 2017 rate was still the fourth-lowest local violent crime rate since 1980. The 2016 rate of 3.33, meanwhile, was lower than the national 2016 average of 3.86.

The number of homicides decreased in 2017, though there were more rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults.

Aggravated assault was the most common type of violent crime, representing nearly two-thirds of cases. Robberies accounted for 27 percent of violent crimes, rapes 10 percent and homicides 1 percent.

Reported cases don’t represent all crime committed in San Diego County. A 2016 National Crime Victimization Survey estimates only 36 percent of property crimes and 42 percent of violent crimes are reported in the U.S.

Crime against elders, in particular, may end up falling through the cracks, District Attorney Summer Stephan told the committee. Victims may have trouble reporting abuse by loved ones or caregivers. Many cases are also brought to county Adult Protective Services but aren’t presented for prosecution.

Over the last five years, the number of reported violent crimes against San Diego County seniors has jumped 37 percent.

“Clearly that indicates this is an area that needs extra attention, especially when you look at San Diego County as a very safe region. This is a definite outlier that needs our attention,” Stephan said.

The District Attorney’s Office released a blueprint in March for combating elder abuse, similar to other regional blueprints regarding child abuse, human trafficking and domestic violence prevention.

The blueprint recommends creating police protocol to better recognize elder abuse. It also proposes an elder protection council that brings together Adult Protective Services employees as well as medical, banking and real estate professionals to address common violent crimes and financial scams directed toward seniors.

— City News Service