2012-02-24 / Front Page

Simi Valley’s crime rate heading in the right direction

Part I infractions reach lowest point in city’s history
By Carissa Marsh

According to the latest crime statistics released by the Simi Valley Police Department, 2011 was the best year on record.

Interim Police Chief Ron Chambers said the per capita crime rate—crimes per thousand residents—indicates just how safe the community is. And in 2011, Simi Valley experienced its lowest per capita crime rate in the city’s history.

“The per capita crime rate I think gives you a better overall sense of how safe the community is as related to the number of people who live here . . . rather than (comparing) one year versus the preceding year,” Chambers said.

Councilmember Steve Sojka, who sits on the Community Crime Prevention Task Force, agreed that lowering the crime rate means more than receiving a “Safest City” designation.

“If you look at today’s stats, our crimes per thousand residents is lower than when we were the ‘Safest City’ in the nation. . . .” Sojka said. “Really, we are safer today. So I’m just very pleased with this report and the stats because it tells us our police department and our community and the City Council is doing a good job . . . reducing crime to levels we’ve never seen before.”

The department released the city’s Part I crime statistics for 2011 during a task force meeting last week. Simi PD follows the national reporting standards set by the FBI, and Part I crimes, as defined by that agency, include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, auto theft and arson.

These are the crimes that are calculated into the per capita crime rate.

Over the past five years, the crime rate has dropped from 20.7 crimes per thousand in 2007 to 14.6 crimes per thousand in 2011. The downward trend was interrupted in 2010 when the Part I crime rate jumped from 17.3 to 18.2 crimes per thousand.

“It’s difficult to put a finger on that slight increase in 2010 but it could somehow be tied to the economic downturn or the jobless rate,” Chambers said.

Still, it appears 2010 was just a blip in an otherwise overall decline in crime, with 2011 reflecting the biggest year-to-year drop since 2008.

Chambers attributes the low crime rate to a combined effort: citizens presenting criminals with less opportunity, officers working diligently in the field to locate and arrest suspects, and investigators— in coordination with the district attorney’s office—pursuing charges and prosecuting cases to the fullest extent of the law.

Mayor Bob Huber agreed that “good hard police work” and “citizens stepping up” are key.

“Part of it is the residents are being more proactive,” Huber said. “Additionally, we’ve stepped up our approach to the way we’re doing law enforcement in our city. We’re more aggressive. We want people to know that if they come into our town and commit a crime, they are going to jail.”

The breakdown

Altogether, Simi Valley’s Part I crimes decreased 22 percent last year from 2010.

Violent crimes were down 11.5 percent, with 15 fewer reported in 2011 than the previous year. There were no homicides in Simi Valley last year.

Forty- one robberies were reported in 2011, up from 37 in 2010. Aggravated assaults saw a decrease from 79 to 66 crimes, while rapes fell from 14 to nine. These types of crimes are difficult for police to predict due to the spontaneous nature of the offense and the diverse relationships of the parties involved.

What police have a bit more control over in terms of prevention are property crimes. Though they are Simi’s biggest battle, Chambers said, it seems that, through community outreach, police and residents are making an impact. For 2011, nearly every category saw a decrease, with a total drop of 23 percent.

The largest decrease—24 percent— was seen in theft, dropping from 1,686 reported crimes in 2010 to 1,278 in 2011.

Burglaries fell from 388 in 2010 to 315 crimes last year.

Thirty fewer auto thefts were reported, with 105 in 2011.

Arson, however, more than doubled. Chambers said the increase is made more dramatic by the fact that 2010 was an unusually low year for arson, with seven incidents. The 15 reported for 2011 is a figure more in line with previous years.

Outside the FBI’s definition of a Part I crime are Part II crimes. In 2011, the city experienced more than 12,000 Part II crimes—including vandalism, drunk driving, illegal drug possession and prowling—a number that has remained consistent over the past five years.

Fraud—such as identity theft, embezzlement and forgery—accounted for 818 Part II crimes in 2011. Since 2007, there has been a 7 percent increase in fraud.

Chambers said residents should use caution when providing others with personal information. Credit cards generally provide more protection against personal loss than debit cards, and paperwork containing personal information should be shredded before being discarded.

The chief said narcotics abuse is also a significant issue for the community and officers are always on the lookout for people in possession of, under the influence of or distributing any illegal substance.

While the latest figures are excellent, Chambers said, the community must remain vigilant to ensure crime stays in check.

“ With the citizens doing their efforts to prevent (property crimes) from happening, our officers are committed to doing their part in locating and apprehending the people who are taking advantage of our citizens,” he said. “Working together we can hopefully keep the crime rate down.”

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