By Daniel Larios
September 15, 2014 –The number of serious crimes in Santa Monica rose slightly last year, but those considered violent crimes dropped to the lowest level in half a century, according to the latest statistics released by the Police Department last week.
Serious crimes -- defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny and arson – increased by 2 percent, with 3,870 incidents reported in 2013, up from 3,793 incidents the previous year.
The number of violent crimes – defined as rape, homicide, robbery, and assault – decreased by 15 percent, with a total of 334 total violent crimes reported in 2013, compared to 395 reported the previous year.
It was the fewest violent crimes reported in the bay side city since 193 were reported in 1963, police said.
Robberies and assaults both dropped to record lows, while the number of homicides and rapes increased due, in part, to the Santa Monica College shooting spree last year and changes in how the FBI categorizes rape, police said.
The number of robberies in Santa Monica fell 17 percent, from 151 in 2012 to 125 in 2013, the lowest in the city since 117 robberies were reported in 1963.
The number of reported assaults dropped 21 percent, from 219 in 2012 to 173 in 2013, also the lowest since 47 assaults were reported in 1963, police said.
There were seven homicides in Santa Monica in 2013, five of them committed by 23-year old John Zawahri on June of 2013 during a shooting spree that ended on the Santa Monica College campus. (“Fifth Victim Dead in Santa Monica Shooting Spree,” June 10, 2014). There were two recorded homicides in 2012.
There were 29 reported rapes in 2013, up from 23 in 2012. Authorities attribute the increase to the FBI’s expanded definition of rape by removing the term “forcible” in reporting crime statistics.
While the number of violent crimes decreased, the number of property crimes – defined as Burglary, Larceny and Auto Theft – increased by 4 percent from 3,388 in 2012 to 3,536 in 2013.
Reported larceny incidents -- theft of personal property that does not require breaking into a building – accounted for the increase,. with 2,793 incidents reported in 2013, compared to 2,634 in 2012, an 8 percent hike.
Reported incidents of auto thefts and burglary dropped, according to the data. In 2013, there were 164 reported auto thefts, compared to 178 the previous year, an 8 percent drop.
The number of burglaries – entry into a building illegally with intent to commit a crime – in 2013 dropped 1 percent, from 586 burglaries in 2012 to 579 incidents last year.
In 2012, a comparison to other metropolitan suburbs by the real estate website Movoto.com found that Santa Monica ranked among the top 25 most Dangerous Suburbs in America.
The City of 89,735 ranked 24 among 116 suburban cities surveyed, with 433 violent crimes and 4,158 total crimes per 100,000 residents.
Serious crime has been on the decline since 1993, when the city experienced its highest crime rate ever, with a combined total of 10,891 serious crimes, compared to the 3,870 reported incidents last year, police said.