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Theft and Similar Crimes Jump More Than 50 Percent Near Santa Monica Expo Line
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Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

December 6, 2016 -- Incidents of theft, burglary and shoplifting have jumped 54 percent along the Expo Line in Santa Monica since the arrival of passenger train service in May, police said Monday.

But it is uncertain to what extent the new train extension contributed to the hike in the number of reported crimes, which does not include incidents reported on the trains or on train platforms that are handled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, police officials said.

"Criminals don’t tell you they came by train with the intent to steal a bike,” said Santa Monica Police Lt. Saul Rodriquez in releasing the data.

“We do know there are a lot more people downtown. You can see the congestion. That plays a role. Where there are people, there is opportunity.”

From May 20, when rail service began, to November 20, police logged 380 Part 1 crimes along the 1,000-foot radius of the Exposition Light Rail Line, an increase of 134 incidents -- or a 54 percent jump -- from the same time period in 2015, the data shows.

Of the increase, 94 crimes are attributed to burglary involving motor vehicles and theft-related crimes -- many involving bicycles -- plus petty theft and shoplifting.

Rodriquez said police compiled the data, and will continue to do so, specifically to determine if the train's arrival has caused the increase.

The 2016 statistics for the 1,000-foot radius around the trains platforms shows that:

* 168 Part 1 crimes were reported near the downtown at 4th Street and Colorado Avenue downtown, of which 129 were shoplifting, commercial burglary and thefts. The radius includes part of the Santa Monica Place mall.

* 24 Part 1 crimes were reported near the 17th Street Station, 18 of which were burglaries involving motor vehicles and thefts, particularly of bicycles.

* 16 Part 1 crimes were reported near the 26th Street Station, 10 of which were thefts.

Part 1 crimes include arson, assault, burglary, grand theft auto, rape and theft.

Rodriguez said SMPD Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks has been focusing on putting more officers downtown to deal with the rise in crime, although she is facing limitations in the department’s $86.6 million budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

“We’re going to need to hire more officers,” Rodriquez said.

Ridership has grown in the six months since Phase 2 from Culver City debuted, linking Santa Monica directly to downtown Los Angeles and bringing the first rail passengers to the bayside city in 63 years. ("All Aboard Santa Monica’s New Light Rail Line," May 20, 2016).

In the three months after the extension was launched, ridership grew by more than 53 percent, with an average of 44,030 passengers on weekdays, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials.

This summer alone, the number of Expo passengers increased 62 percent on Saturdays and 135 percent on Sundays and holidays.

Some in Santa Monica have worried that the deluge of newcomers might open the door to more crime ("Santa Monica Police Gear Up For Expo Line’s ‘Challenges,’" March 3, 2015).

But making the connection is difficult because of the record increase in congestion downtown. More people live there than ever (about 4,500) and the area attracts an estimated 7 million visitors annually ("Record Crowds Jam Downtown Santa Monica this Summer," August 23, 2016).

Tourists, shoppers and employees boost the daytime population to an estimated 250,000 people, according to City officials.

Rodriquez said the SMPD is focusing on crime prevention, urging the public and business community to take a variety of simple safety measures. They include leaving expensive items secured in cars and installing better locks on stores, vehicles and, lately, bikes.

No violent crimes were reported on SMPD's list for the areas adjacent to Expo lines, although a man was shot by sheriff’s deputies and hospitalized after lunging at them with a knife in early October on the Expo platform downtown ("Man Shot by Deputies at Santa Monica Expo Station Remains in Critical Condition," October 6, 2016).

Rodriquez also said the SMPD, like other California police forces, is trying to determine if any rises in crime are linked to Proposition 47, the 2014 measure that downgraded some drug possession and theft crimes to misdemeanors to reduce prison overcrowding.

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