County crime rate up 4% in first half of 2016

SAN DIEGO — A jump in homicides, auto thefts and burglaries between January and June led, in part, to a 4 percent increase in San Diego County’s crime rate compared with statistics from the same period in 2015, according to a study released Wednesday by the San Diego Association of Governments.

Compared with 2015 mid-year statistics, the property crime rate in San Diego County was up 4 percent and the violent crime rate rose by 1 percent, according to SANDAG. However, the overall crime rate was 30 percent lower than in the same period in 2006.

“Given the confounding factors that can affect crime rates, it is not possible at this point to draw any definitive conclusions as to what exactly is causing these slight increases. But despite the uptick, the current crime rate in our region is still far lower than what it was 10 years ago,” said Cynthia Burke, director of the SANDAG Criminal Justice Research Division.

Reports of stolen vehicles increased the most during the first six months of the year — up 16 percent from 4,778 in 2015 to 5,551 this year, or an average of four more vehicles stolen per day, according to the agency’s mid- year crime report. Arson reports were close behind with a 15 percent jump from 195 in the first half of last year to 224 this year.

The homicide rate rose by 14 percent, or one more per month. In the first half of this year, 49 homicides occurred in San Diego County, compared with 43 during the same time span in 2015, according to the report.

Rapes were up 4 percent from 2015, but SANDAG officials said the increase may stem from law enforcement officers using a broader definition of what constitutes a rape. The change may have also affected aggravated assault rates, which fell by 1 percent.

The 5,291 residential and commercial burglaries reported in the first half of 2016 was 6 percent higher than the 5,012 similar crimes during the same period a year ago. Robbery reports increased by 4 percent, but petty theft fell 2 percent.

SANDAG officials said property crimes made up 85 percent of crime in the region. Of the 31,799 property crimes reported in the first half of 2016, 34 percent were burglaries and vehicle thefts.

Officials with the regional planning agency said many factors can affect the local crime rate, such as the effects of public safety realignment and those of an initiative that reduced certain drug possession felonies to misdemeanors.