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Lake Forest's Crime Problem

Data from 2011 and 2012 show that Lake Forest is not "one of the safest cities."

At his first meeting as the new Mayor of Lake Forest in 2013, Scott Voigts claimed that we are “one of the safest cities in California.”

At her last meeting as Mayor in 2012, Katheryn McCullough said we were “one of the safest cities in the U.S.”

One of the first resolutions passed by the newly sworn city council in December began with these words: “Whereas Lake Forest is one of the safest cities in the U.S.”

What do all these three statements have in common? They are lies!

A few months ago I wrote an article entitled “How Safe is Lake Forest?” which said that:

“Despite what you’ve been told by our highly paid City Manager and by the City Council members, Lake Forest is not among the safest cities in America. In fact, it’s not even among the safest cities in Southern California.”

I followed that article with statistics from 2008 and 2009 on the crime rates for 9 cities managed by the OC Sheriff’s Department (OCSD), and the findings were –

• On serious Part 1 crimes (e.g., homicide, forcible rape, assault, robbery, auto theft, larceny, and burglary) Lake Forest had the 7th highest crime rate in 2009 and 6th highest in 2008.

• On lesser Part 2 crimes (e.g., forgery & counterfeiting, stolen property crimes, vandalism, prostitution, sex offenses, offenses against child, liquor violations, DUI) Lake Forest had the 7th highest crime rate in 2009 and 8th highest in 2008.

• In terms of clearance rates (solving crimes) in 2009, Lake Forest ranked 5th in clearing Part 1 crimes and 4th in clearing Part 2 crimes.

Coming in with the 7th highest crime rates among 9 cities managed by the same police force is not exactly a sterling record. And it hardly qualifies us for “one of the safest cities in the U.S.” much less in California when we are not even one of the safest cities in Southern California.

The key dates of 2008 and 2009 were chosen because these were the last dates that the OCSD published online. But I wondered how we were doing lately, so I put in a request for public records information and the OCSD was nice enough to comply and send me the data for 2011 and 2012.

The two big questions:

• Are we having more or less crime now and are we doing a better or worse job catching the criminals?

• How do we stand on a comparative basis? Are we still among the highest in crime and only average in clearance?

Part 1 (Serious) Crimes

Data for 2011 and 2012 were remarkably similar for all 10 cities so I combined the data. Here is the crime rate per 100,000 people for those two years for Part 1 crimes.

Rancho Santa Margarita, 778
Laguna Woods, 813
Aliso Viejo, 957
Laguna Niguel, 1,207
Mission Viejo, 1,371
LAKE FOREST, 1,440
San Clemente, 1,451
San Juan Capistrano, 1,716
Laguna Hills, 1,931
Dana Point, 2,016

Among the 10 cities, Lake Forest had the 6th highest crime rate for Part 1 crimes. In 2009 we had 1,370 crimes per 100,000 people compared to 1,440 in 2012, so we show a 5 percent increase in the number of crimes, but on a comparative basis, we were 7th in 2009 and in 2011-2 we were 6th. A slight improvement on a comparative basis, but nothing to brag about, and far more worrisome is the 5 percent increase in serious crimes.

Part 2 Crimes

Here’s the data for Part 2 crimes per 100,000 people –

Laguna Woods, 659
Laguna Hills, 1,118
Aliso Viejo, 1,635
Rancho Santa Margarita, 1,696
Mission Viejo, 1,964
San Clemente, 2,466
LAKE FOREST, 2,650
Laguna Niguel, 2,820
San Juan Capistrano, 3,347
Dana Point, 3,594

Among the 10 cities, Lake Forest had the 7th highest crime rate for Part 2 crimes. In 2009 we had 2,786 crimes per 100,000 people compared to 2,650 in 2012, so we show a 5 percent decrease in the number of crimes. On a comparative basis, we were 7th in 2009 and in 2011-2 we were 7th again.

Part 1 and Part 2 Combined

If we combine the Part 1 and Part 2 crimes, Lake Forest comes in with the 7th highest crime rate among the 10 cities, at 4,090 crimes per 100,000 for 2011-12. Laguna Woods has the lowest rate at 1,472 crimes per 100,000 and Dana Point comes in last at 5,610.

The average for the 10 cities served by OCSD is 3,563 crimes per 100,000. Interestingly enough this is nearly 10 percent higher than the average national crime rate for 2011 which was 3,295. Extrapolating this, the crime rate for Lake Forest is much higher not only than most cities in Southern California, but for most cities in the U.S.

• 3,295 – National crime rate
• 3,563 – Average crime rate for 10 Southern California cities
• 4,090 – Crime rate in Lake Forest

Summary

With respect to crime rate, we continue to have among the highest crime rates per 100,000 people for 10 cities managed by the OCSD, whether we look at Part 1 or Part 2 or both. Moreover our comparatively poor performance remains the same when we compare 2008-9 with 2011-2. Our crime rate in Lake Forest is 14 percent higher than the average for the 10 cities in Southern California and we are the 7th  highest out of 10.

When 2008-9 is compared with 2011-2 we show a 5% increase in Part 1 (serious) crimes and a 5 percent decrease in Part 2 crimes.

When looked at from a national perspective, our combined crime rate of 4,090 crimes per 100,000 is 24 percent higher than the average crime rate for the U.S.

Clearly, our Mayors and our City Council are not telling us the truth about crime in Lake Forest.

In our next blog we’ll look at the clearance rate and then discuss some of the implications. Meanwhile it would be nice if our city council members and the city staff refrained from telling us and the world that we are among the safest cities in the U.S.

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.

JustUs January 29, 2013 at 09:49 PM
And we've discussed this phenomenon before, Jim Gardner. That old tried and true saying that is taught in most American business schools "Figures don't lie. Liars figure". For the life of me I just can't understand why those who have at least graduated from high school in America are unable to grasp the simple concept that you are conveying here. I understood it from the start and I'm no brain surgeon. My guess is that people only see what they want to see and refuse to accept the simple truth. If all towns with a population larger than 10,000 and less than 100,000 were grouped together Lake Forest would probably end up the top 25 percentile of those with the highest crime rates. Mission Viejo has about 20,000 more residents than does Lake Forest. Yet according to the numbers Mission Viejo has less crime than LF does! And since the same agency polices both cities it's a clear indication that there is some variable in Lake Forest that results in a higher crime rate. Why is it so taboo to determine what that factor is and try to mitigate it??? How could Lake Forest be one of America's safest cities when it doesn't even rank as one of the safest cities in the 10 Orange County cities that OCSD patrols? This is why problems continue to fester without resolution, Jim. People willfully tie blindfolds across their eyes and put plugs in their ears and then say "I can't see you. I can't hear you. Whatever you say I will ignore." Such insanity!
Jim Gardner January 29, 2013 at 10:02 PM
HiJustUs, You make an excellent point. One that I haven't made myself. In crime studies, size of city is a major determinant of crime rate- the bigger the city the higher the crime rate. There are other factors of course, like demographics (older people usually commit fewer crimes, richer people too), geography (colder climates usually have lower rates), etc. But size is the big one. Since MV has 93,000 vs. our 77,000 you'd expect their crime rate to be higher than ours, but it isn't. We are 4090 per 100,000 and they are only 3335 per 100,000. We are right next door, have the same police force, etc. and their much larger size should give them a higher crime rate, but it doesn't. This is just another indication that we should be doing a better job in our City. Thanks for pointing it out.
JustUs January 29, 2013 at 10:26 PM
Thanks, Jim. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but once every decade or so I have a moment of brilliance. I would love to hear Terry Anderson's explanation for MV having less crime than LF, even though MV is about 20,000 residents larger. Also, we have discussed before, it's not uncommon for crime (sometimes serious crime) committed in LF not being reported by the media. This is disturbing since it gives people a false sense of security. People may let their guard down while taking a stroll around the neighborhood after dark without knowing there was an armed robbery of a neighbor in the same area a few nights before. That is VERY scary! All of us know that in a typical American neighborhood that people do not actively communicate with each other on a routine basis. Oh, you may know your neighbors a few doors down - but not the next street down. This is a problem. Without crimes being reported by the media we are kept in the dark. Read the LF crime blotter sometime. The crimes listed are a farce. It's very hard to believe that more serious crimes take place that aren't being reported.
Jim Gardner January 30, 2013 at 12:19 PM
Hi JustUs, When I publish these types of stories I get lots of e-mails telling me about crime in people's neighborhoods. Mostly car and home robberies, but also the occasional assault or narcotics violation. In the last few days I heard about problems around Mountain View Park, Village Pond Park, and Lake 2. Our city has more than 3,000 crimes each year, more than 1,000 of which are serious or Part 1 crimes. That doesn't factor in the number of crimes that go unreported. Tomorrow I will report data on solving crime. You won't be happy. The more I study this and the more people write to me I am convinced that we need to do something affirmative about crime in Lake Forest. No, we don't need to issue shotguns to everybody, but our new Mayor Scott Voigts said he was interested in expanding the "Neighborhood Watch" program and I'd like to endorse his suggestion wth this major caveat - let's research our effectiveness with this program and do a thorough evaluation before we expand it. (Scott - if you're reading this, I'd be more than happy to assist)
JustUs January 30, 2013 at 04:36 PM
Most everything the government does is reactionary, Jim. And even when they react more than half the time they get that wrong. Look at the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in CT. Instead of addressing mental illness (the common denominator to all these mass killings) or reforming the 'war on drugs' (which is responsible for about 80% of the 11,000 gun murdrer annual in the nation), or looking at the violence on screen that Hollywood pushed on the public (have you watched the violence depicted in Saturday morning cartoons to the children on Saturday morning lately or the video game violence any 10 year old can buy at the store?) all the hand-wringing politicians focus primarily on a style of guns that aren't even used in most of the nation's murders!) It's no different on the local level, Jim. They ban all sex offenders from parks when most sex offenders aren't pedophiles, haven't reoffended and certainly never violated anyone in a park!!! And then they reverse the ruling, not because the ruling itself never made any sense from the start, but only because they were afraid of losing money in lawsuits!!! hah! And then they act so concerned about 'family values' and the 'safety of the children' and then turn around and approve a gambling house in Lake Forest that will certainly attract criminal elements and where dads will lose their paychecks betting the ponies and have nothing left to feed, clothe or provide shelter for little Timmy or Suzy. It's nuts, JIm. Truly It is!

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