Crime in Lake Forest, Part 2: Solving Cases

BLOG: Compared to our neighbors, we have more crime and more unsolved cases.

In our last blog we looked at the crime rate in 2011 and 2012 in 10 Southern California cities monitored by the OC Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) and we found that -

• Lake Forest continues to have among the highest local crime rates, 14 percent higher than the average for 10 neighboring cities in Southern California.
• When 2008-9 is compared with 2011-2 we show a 5 percent 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 in the U.S.

These findings are not cause for alarm, but they aren’t cause for complacency either.

Specific Crimes

I wanted to take a moment to look at some specifics before we turn our attention to clearance rates. It’s all well and good to talk about Part 1 or serious crimes and Part 2 crimes, but what does this really mean? Here is the breakdown for some specific crime categories for 2011-12. These figures are the total number of crimes (not the rate):

• Criminal Homicide – 2
• Forcible Rape – 9
• Assault – 899
• Sex Offenses – 44
• Narcotics – 668
• DUI – 383
• Vandalism – 697
• Residential Burglary – 234
• Motor Vehicle Theft - 107

There are some disturbing numbers here, and the fact that Part 1 crimes (like homicide, rape, and assault) are up in 2011-2 compared to 2008-9 is even more disturbing.

Clearance Rate

Now let’s look at the other side of the coin. How good has OCSD been in clearing (solving) these crimes?

In 2009, Lake Forest ranked 5th in clearing Part 1 crimes and 4th in clearing Part 2 crimes. In 2008, Lake Forest ranked 4th in Part 2 and 6th in Part 1. Not exactly a great record, but clearly in the middle of the road compared to our neighbors.

In 2011-12, our average clearance rate for Part 1 crimes was 20 percent and our average clearance rate for Part 2 crimes was 63.5 percent. This placed us 8th in terms of solving Part 1 crimes and 5th on Part 2 crimes. On a comparative basis we are doing worse.

Here is the city by city average clearance rate for 2011-2 listed in rank order from best to worst:

Part 1 (serious) Crimes

Laguna Hills, 32%
Rancho Santa Margarita, 31%
San Clemente, 25%
Mission Viejo, 23%
San Juan Capistrano, 22.5%
Dana Point, 22%
Aliso Viejo, 22%
Laguna Niguel,  18%
Laguna Woods, 8.5%

Part 2 Crimes

San Juan Capistrano, 71%
Dana Point, 70.5%
Laguna Hills, 64.5%
San Clemente, 64%
Mission Viejo, 62%
Rancho Santa Margarita, 60%
Laguna Niguel,  58%
Laguna Woods, 51%
Aliso Viejo, 47%

Clearance rates for Lake Forest for the 10 year period 2000 to 2009 for Part 1 crimes averaged about 21 percent and the clearance rate for Part 2 crimes averaged about 68 percent. So in 2011-2 we are more or less stable with regard to solving Part 1 crimes, but doing slightly worse solving Part 2 crimes.

On a comparative basis, from 2009 to 2011-2 we are doing less well solving crimes than our neighbors. We went from 5th place solving Part 1 (serious) crimes to 8th place, and from 4th place solving Part 2 crimes to 5th place.

Looked at from another perspective, when compared to the average clearance rate in 2011-2, our ability to solve Part 1 (serious) crimes is 11 percent below our neighbors while our ability to solve Part 2 crimes is 4 percent above.

Specific Crimes

Here are the clearance rates for some specific crime categories for 2011-2 combined

• Criminal Homicide – 100%
• Narcotics – 89%
• Aggravated Assault – 72%
• Sex Offenses – 66%
• Forcible Rape – 55%
• Auto theft – 31%
• Vandalism – 12%
• Residential Burglary – 12%

These figures more or less mirror the national figures. If you commit a serious crime (murder, rape, assault) your chances of being caught are good, and if you commit a minor crime like vandalism or burglary, your chances of getting caught are small.


Our ability to solve crimes in Lake Forest is more or less in line with national figures, but below our neighboring cities that consistently do better than we do in solving Part 1 (serious) crimes.

Over time, our crime solving in Part 1 crimes has stayed stable around the 20 percent level but our ability to solve Part 2 crimes has declined from the high to the low 60 percent region.

Crime and Solving Crime

Putting the previous article together with our current results, we see that –

With Part 1 (serious) crimes our rate of crime has increased 5 percent in recent years while our ability to solve these crimes has remained the same. With Part 2 crimes, we enjoy 5 percent fewer crimes but our ability to solve these crimes has decreased by approximately the same percentage.

Putting Part 1 and Part 2 crimes together, our crime rate is about the same and our ability to solve the crimes has decreased slightly.

Compared to our neighbors, we are doing less well with regard to suffering from crime and doing less well with regard to solving crimes. Our relative positions in crime rate and in crime solving have both deteriorated.

Going Forward

If the trends are against us, both in crime rate and crime solving, imagine what’s going to happen in the next few years when we increase our population by 12,000 or more people as a result of the recent action by the City Council to add 4,000+ more homes.  One of the few valid predictors of crime rate is population size - the bigger the city, the more likely they will have a higher crime rate. So increasing our population by more than 15 percent can only have a negative impact on the crime rate and our ability to solve crimes.


1. Control Growth.

I’ve said it before in a different context (i.e., the traffic tsunami) but it bears repeating in this context – a dramatic increase in the number of people in our City, at a time when crime is going up and our ability to solve crimes is going down, is an invitation to disaster. The City needs to moderate its growth plans until it can adequately deal with the problems confronting us today.

2. Evaluate Services

It should be clear that our Police force is not doing as good a job as is being done by our neighboring cities, and since we are all under the control of the OCSD, we need to look at why. A thorough study of crime (and crime solving) in Lake Forest is clearly needed.

Should we make better use of civilian staff? Use more volunteers? Shall we have more proactive policing? Would more neighborhood watch programs help? Can we work more closely with HOAs?

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 February 02, 2013 at 04:53 PM
Jim, mind telling me where you got those figures? Both were head scratchers for me. First off, some cities that finance their own PD's spend upwards of 70% of their budgets on public safety. And those are the cities that are in trouble financially. I can't think of one that spends less than 50%. So when you said Irvine spends just 41% I was shocked. I wonder how they control their costs? They have the same labor costs as the others (big salaries, OT, 3%@50 pensions, early retirements, etc..). Irvine is a rich city. I wonder what the dollar amount of their budget is compared to other cities the same size or per capita? Any idea? Maybe that's the reason. But 41% on it's face seems to be a bargain. Santa Ana has nearly bankrupted itself with public safety costs and shoddy management of their public treasure. That's why recently they disbanded their own fire department and now contract with OCFA. But I wonder how much SA spends on SAPD? I bet it's enormous. But was really shocked me was MV's 20% of budget expenditure on OCSD. 17% difference with LF. But naturally their budget is probably much larger than LF's. It should be since they have a higher population count by 20%. But broken down, per capita, I wonder how LF and MV compare? I assume that the labor costs, per cop, are similar since OCSD provides police services to both. This is where the data becomes all important to figure out what's going on. But OCSD hides the data from the citizens who finance their operations
Jim Gardner February 02, 2013 at 05:11 PM
i got the numbers from their websites
JustUs February 02, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Following Bell, Ca. the state and the cities became a little more transparent with labor and pensions costs on the local level. The State Controller has some nice data on the counties and the cities at his website. It's a shame that it took such a horrendous scandal of corruption and financial fraud for government to become a little more transparent. And some of the data is still very cloudy, as it does not provide information relative to FULL public employee compensation. I am not asking for names. I don't care who they are. I want to know how much we pay them in total (FULL COMPENSATION) for a year's worth of work. I don't want a salary range. That tells me nothing of value. I don't think that's asking too much at all. If they paid my salary I would gladly turn my data over to them for examination. There's nothing worse than government secrets. It causes tremendous damage to the public trust and allows problems to fester for years without being addressed. And naturally the latter consequence is fully intentional. It has to be. And I am not talking about CIA secrets on counterespinage activities. I undertand the purpose of those secrests. I mean common financial measurements and accounting data that shoudl be available to all in this high-tech age. They operate based on the philosophy of: "What they don't know won't hurt them", which, of course, is totally false. They behave like rulers as opposed to representatives paid with public dollars.
JustUs February 02, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Here, I told before what the problem is: LABOR COSTS! Example. Deputy 1 is the lowest rung on the OCSD totem pole. The lowest of the low. These are mostly young people - many of whom probably don't even have college degrees. BRAND NEW EMPLOYEES. Are you sitting down? Look at their salaries, premium pay and overtime. Base salary is about $80,000. (And this was in 2009!!!) How many college grads walk into a job paying $80,000 in BASE SALARY?? It's a complete farce. And this spreadsheet doesn't even include annual PENSION AND MEDICAL costs. Go ahead and factor those in for yourself. For a Deputy 1 those are good for at least another $70,000. Minimum. This is the problem. Nobody in charge wants to admit it let alone discuss it. This is why cities and counties in California are going bankrupt! And all the leaders are asleep at the wheel. They don't care because most of them collect public union payoffs in one way or another. Here, all of you who are not connected into this royal give-a-way system, read it and weep!: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/pay-214126-salaries-sheriff.html?data=1&appSession=96533619214367#article-data
JustUs February 02, 2013 at 10:02 PM
Oh, btw, the data in that spreadsheet for for 2007! FIVE years ago! Imagine what it would be TODAY! But they will HIDE IT until they are forced by the courts to give it up! But YOU still have to pay it, regardless of whether they hide it or not!


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