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 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.
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.
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%
LAKE FOREST, 20%
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%
LAKE FOREST, 63.5%
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.
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.
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?