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Serious Crime Drops to Record Lows

By Jorge Casuso

August 5 – Serious crime in Santa Monica dipped during police Chief Tim Jackman’s first full year on the job, and it has dropped dramatically since he put beat officers on the street under a new neighborhood policing program this year, according to the latest crime statistics.

The number of serious crimes -- defined by the FBI as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny and arson -- dipped by 5 percent in 2007 to 3,706 reported incidents, down from 3,904 incidents the previous year, according to crime statistics reported to the FBI.

The recent statistics continues a downward trend -- reflected across the nation -- that has seen crime steadily drop to levels not seen since the mid-1950s, a trend being celebrated in Santa Monica and in cities across the country during National Night Out on Tuesday evening.

And the trend seems to be accelerating locally since Jackman restructured long-established patrol areas that had been in place for four decades and assigned designated patrol officers to different neighborhoods, according to the latest statistics. (“Police Department Launches New Beat Plan,” October 30, 2006)

“Despite the declining economy, crime is still going down, especially serious crime,” said Jackman who took over the top spot in December 2006. “Right now we’re down in almost every category in the city except for homicide and rape.”

The number of reports of personal crimes -- homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- rose by seven incidents, from 590 in 2006 to 597 last year, according to the crime statistics.

Jackman cautions against looking for trends when the crime sample is relatively small. He noted that although reports of rape were up – from 26 to 30, seven of those reports were filed by the same homeless woman and have not been substantiated.

Homicides rose from two to three, but the number included a woman who was neglected by her caretaker in a Santa Monica motel after surgery and subsequently died in a local hospital, Jackman said.

“Small numbers can mean huge percent swings," Jackman said, noting that the additional homicide resulted in a 50 percent increase. “Santa Monica is a small sample.”

The number of aggravated assaults reported also rose from 306 to 328, with the number involving firearms nearly doubling, from 28 to 53, according to the statistics.

Roughly 50 percent of the aggravated assaults involved domestic violence, which tends to rise during tough economic times, Jackman said.

“When people lose their jobs they start drinking and get frustrated,” he said.

The number of robberies reported dropped from 256 in 2006 to 236 last year, with robberies in streets and alleys dropping from 130 in 2006 to 104 last year. The use of firearms in the robberies dropped from 69 to 52.

If personal crime rose slightly, reports of property crimes -- burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny and arson -- dropped from 3,240 to 3,035, according to the statistics.

Reports of burglaries and burglary attempts were down, from 646 in 2006 to 593 last year, with the number of residential burglaries up from 339 to 388 and the number of commercial burglaries dropped from 394 to 295.

The number of reported larcenies – which include shoplifting, pickpockets and thefts from autos -- also decreased from 2,187 in 2006 to 2,099 last year, according to the statistics.

And most serious crime has continued to drop by double digits during the first seven months of 2008, thanks in large part to a new neighborhood policing plan that went into effect at the beginning of the year and an increase in the number of officers working overtime, Jackman said.

Since January the number of reported assaults with a deadly weapon have dropped 16 percent and robberies are down by 14 percent, compared to the same period last year, Jackman said.

The number of burglaries dropped dramatically, with commercial burglaries down 37 percent and residential burglaries down 27 percent. The number of reported cars stolen dropped by 29 percent.

“These are great numbers we hope we can continue to sustain,” Jackman said. “But the economy is getting worse.”

The only crimes that are on the rise are homicides (there have been four this year), rapes, which have risen slightly and larcenies, which typically rise during tough economic times, Jackman said.

Larcenies and thefts are up 21 percent this year, compared to the same period last year.

“People are shoplifting more,” he said. “When they’re going out stealing catalytic converters from cars to sell for scrap metal, that’s an indication of a poor economy.”

Theft from cars often takes place near the freeway and on large streets, where the suspect can make an easy getaway, he said.

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 3,706 reported incidents last year, police said.

The dramatic drop in crime across the country has been attributed to everything from community based policing to a drop in unwanted children due to legalized abortion.


“Despite the declining economy, crime is still going down, especially serious crime.” Tim Jackman


“Small numbers can mean huge percent swings. Santa Monica is a small sample.”


“These are great numbers we hope we can continue to sustain.”


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