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.