Crime in Lake Forest 2013 - Summing Up and Looking Forward

Dr. Jim Gardner
Dr. Jim Gardner

Over the past three articles this week we’ve looked at crime in Lake Forest in 2013 and we compared our crime rate and crime solving abilities with 9 other cities in Southern California that are patrolled by OCSD. On most indices, Lake Forest did better in 2013 than we did in 2011-2012. We had fewer Part 1 and Part 2 crimes and our ability to solve both types of crimes increased. That’s the good news. On a comparative basis, we still have a long way to go. Most cities down here have lower crime rates than we do, and that includes Mission Viejo which is substantially larger than we are. Indeed, the only cities that do worse than us are the 3 tourist cities (Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente). Even more disturbing, Lake Forest leads all other cities combined in the number of murders in the past 3 years, and when 2013 is compared with 2011-2012, we’ve seen increases in Murder, Forcible Rape, Vehicular Manslaughter, Forgery, Weapons Laws Violations, Offenses Against a Child, Narcotics Violations, and DUIs.

Having higher crime rates than most of our neighbors is distressing, but it has to be taken in context. Being the ugliest woman at the Miss Universe Pageant is not exactly a blemish. Southern California is blessed with a relatively low crime rate when compared with the rest of the country, so even while we have a higher crime rate than our immediate neighbors, you don’t necessarily need to go out and purchase a shot gun. That being said, you also don’t want to be complacent. “Crime” is not something that happens “over there”. It is happening here and it is serious. As a resident you need to take precautions as you go about your daily life. As a government, our City Council has to stop lying to us about how we’re one of “the safest cities” in the U.S. and start asking why our neighbors have less crime.

  • Is their Neighborhood Watch program more effective?

  • Do they recruit more Seniors for the STARS program?

  • Are they doing a better job preventing crime?

  • Is their ability to deploy staff more effective or efficient?

Spending on Public Safety is the largest single expense for Lake Forest and it is growing every year. Unless we do a better job controlling crime, soon we will have to curtail programs because we can’t afford them. Recently the City of Laguna Hills funded a study to look at crime in their city and the deployment of Police. We should take a close look at the results of that study and we should consider examining more closely how we are spending our money in this area. Public safety should be the first concern of our City officials, and from a look at the crime stats from 2013, we have room for improvement.

The current City Council does our community a grave disservice by pretending everything is OK, by claiming we are "one of the safest cities in the U.S." and by refusing to take a close look at what is happening and why it is happening. Last year they sneered at the idea of getting a bid from the City of Irvine to replace OC SD. Why? The City of Irvine is many times larger than Lake Forest yet has a crime rate significantly below ours. Why shouldn't we explore our options. Instead we accept whatever OC SD puts in front of us, and along with those demands, our City Council also signed an agreement with the Sheriff to allow Musick Jail to expand by more than triple and to add maximum security prisoners. The City of Irvine, to their credit, sued the Sheriff and is still in legal action trying to stop the expansion. By tying ourselves to OC SD we are risking the well being of our citizens allowing the Sheriff to expand the Jail, and we are suffering from higher crime rates. Exploring a contract with the City of Irvine to provide Police services is an option that should be explored. In the meantime, taking a serious look at crime in Lake Forest should be on the table.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jim Richert February 14, 2014 at 01:23 PM
If my memory is correct, about 25% of the Lake Foest budget went to police services in the 90's, and now it is up to 37%. This is a frightening trend that indicates less and less money will be available for other needed services at the expense of bloated Sheriff Department costs. At least taking look at sourcing police services with Irvine would provide some indication of how costs could be reduced and service improved, but this City Council abvously doesn't want to challenge the status quo and/or isn't able to see the train wreck that is coming.
Jim Gardner February 14, 2014 at 01:30 PM
Yes. It has been going up a little every year, and now approaches 40%, which leaves very little to be split up for everything else.
Merijoe Axe February 15, 2014 at 12:02 AM
What is frightening to me and hopefully a wakeup call to Lake Forest residents, especially with children, is the rude, passive-aggressive, egotistical, uppity, council members, board member appointees and some tax paid salaried pensioned employees who show they don't care about anything but their own agendas by not protecting all the residents for who they have taken oaths to serve, shuffling around the agenda and giving the rubber stamp AYE to putting dry sales pitches in front of the public speakers, not looking out for anyone's best interest but whoever can help them politically and ignoring how the public can be best served. Don't let them appearing friendly in your face and shaking your hand, fool you, that's the passive part. They don't LISTEN, they delay, they do what they want and appoint who they want no matter what anyone says to them-that's the aggressive part. I want to remind everyone of the courageousness of some residents of SJC who recently took some of their city council to court over a free speech issue and won.
Mike Andrews February 15, 2014 at 01:59 PM
is 50% of that crime related to the apartments on Osterman in LF?
Jim Gardner February 15, 2014 at 04:42 PM
Hi Mike. I'm pretty sure 50% of the crime doesn't come from the Osterman apartments. The OC SD data I looked at didn't break it down by area, just totals by City. The website spotcrime shows crime by area, and looking at that data, it appears crime is reasonably distributed throughout the City, with perhaps an over representation around El Toro which makes sense given the businesses around El Toro.
Merijoe Axe February 15, 2014 at 06:25 PM
LFLegalEagle February 15, 2014 at 07:33 PM
Thank you Dr. Gardner for these valuable articles. Without your work we would be at the mercy of individuaLs who do not value the truth in the same manner as you and I and most of the rest of our citizens.
Sonny Morper February 16, 2014 at 10:10 AM
Considering our public safety budget rate is public, I wonder how much comes from grants and other sources, are we charged at the same rate as other sheriff supported cities? Also, what is the current budget for cities around us, as a percentage of their budget? Does more police services guarantee less crime, or is it more DUI checks, better distribution of services? Does the city pay or school district for the sheriff services at football and basketball games? Is 37 percent or quality rate? My experience is that the service is worth every dime in our budget, would prefer to pay more to get more drug crime emphasis though.
Jim Gardner February 16, 2014 at 10:49 AM
Hi Sonny. When it comes to finances, each City reports their spending in a different manner, so it's difficult to compare spending across some categories. That being said, my research shows that the % in 2012 varied from 23% to 48% with an average of 33%. Lake Forest was slightly higher than average as a % of our budget, but slightly less than average on a per capita basis.
Jim Gardner February 16, 2014 at 10:59 AM
There was little relationship between the % of the budget and per capita spending. Some cities with a high % of the budget devoted to public safety have very low per capita spending (e.g., Aliso Viejo, RSM) and conversely, some cities with low % of budget have high per capita spending (e.g., San Clemente). Some cities do well (comparatively) on both measures (e.g., LW, MV, LN) and some do poorly on both (e.g., DP, LH). Lake Forest was in 6th place on both measures.
Jim Gardner February 16, 2014 at 11:03 AM
The one finding that is of most interest was that there was a high positive correlation between per capita spending and crime solution. Cities that spent more on a per capita basis had higher rates of solving crimes. For example, Dana Point and San Clemente spent more than $200 per capita and both had clearance rates over 60%. Aliso Viejo and Laguna Woods spent less than $150 and had clearance rates less than 50%.
Tom Cagley February 16, 2014 at 08:05 PM
Not sure of the relevance, but Sonny questioned LF pay for public safety, and since we are one of 14 or so cities that use the sheriff department for our police, chances are each city is paying a different amount. I used to live in Yorba Linda and that city was policed by the Placentia (under a contract) department. The sheriff department submitted a bid and it was lower than Placentia, so they got the contract. Would be interesting to see when LF's last contracted with the Sheriff's department, and if the contract goes on forever, or does it get re-bid every 3 or 4 years.
Tom Cagley February 16, 2014 at 08:05 PM
Not sure if "my comments" are relevant, not Sonny's question. That is very relevant.
Jim Gardner February 16, 2014 at 09:37 PM
Tom, the City just renewed the contract with OC SD last year. I suggested they get a bid from Irvine but the Council members (in their wisdom) scoffed at the idea. BTW - there is no assurance that Irvine would want to handle us. A few years ago the idea of LF contracting for animal services with Irvine instead of the County was raised, but Irvine was not interested in working with LF on this issue.
Lionel M. February 17, 2014 at 02:20 PM
Thank you for doing the research on this important topic. Nothing is more important than public safety. I hope the Council reads this report and acts to improve our crime prevention programs. There is no reason for us to do so poorly when compared to our neighbors. I am gratified that our crime solution is so high, but dismayed that our crime rate is also so high on a comparative basis.
chuck Ellis February 17, 2014 at 05:03 PM
I moved down here from north county ,to me its so much more mellow at first it was a total coulter shock .There is no liquor stores on every 15 feet. If you have not lived there you would not know what I mean I grew up there. And its pretty wild and crazy. When I first moved here I thought this place was the same as Irvine and the city's around us.. low crime makes sense right? well about 2 or 3 months back I had my mountain bike snatched right off my porch in the middle of the day. I don't want this to get long and drawn out so heed my words the more line you let out the harder it is to get back. What I mean is the more you allow crime to grow the harder it is to push back down. And you don't want north county crime here take my word for it. that being said maybe we should look and listen to what Mr. Gardner purposes ,I have only lived here for a few years but I really love it here ! thanks Chuck E
Jim Gardner February 18, 2014 at 10:33 AM
Hi Chuck. It is "more mellow" and those of us who live here do "love it", but that doesn't mean it can't be improved, and one of the first steps is to look at the data and see where improvements can be made. The city officials like to keep us lulled into believing we are "one of the safest in the US" and this can create a false belief and people stop taking precautions. Maybe that's why those cities around us that don't self-promote themselves have lower crime rates.


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