San Diego’s crime rate continues to plunge

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SAN DIEGO — A decade-long downward trend of crime in the city of San Diego continued last year, resulting in some of the lowest levels seen since the 1960s and 1970s, police Chief Shelley Zimmerman reported Wednesday.

Overall crime plunged 13.5 percent in 2014, compared to the previous year, Zimmerman told the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee. Violent crimes dipped 1.7 percent.

The number of murders, robberies, burglaries, thefts and auto thefts all fell by large amounts last year.

The exception was rape, with the number of reported cases rising from 316 in 2013 to 371 last year — a  jump of more than 17 percent.

Zimmerman said, “community outreach and awareness from a high-profile series in North Park may have likely led to the increased reporting of rape by victims.”

The chief said DNA evidence helped solve major rape cases last year in University City and Golden Hill.

“We believe that rape is one of the most under-reported crimes and, as we said in many of those community meetings that we had (during the North Park sexual assault series), we want everyone to report crime — whatever crime you are a victim of,” Zimmerman said.

She said the crime rate of 23.8 per 1,000 residents — it was 40.4 a decade ago — is about the same as the early 1960s. The violent crime rate of 3.9 per 1,000 residents compares to 5.2 in 2004 and is similar to the 1970s, she said.

In other statistics:

— gang crimes fell 7.9 percent overall from the year before, but gang-related assaults and attempted homicides remained constant;

— crimes involving juvenile victims were down 2.2 percent;

— domestic violence cases fell 2.1 percent; and

— hate crimes dropped 15.9 percent to 37, with 17 related to ethnicity and another 17 to sexual orientation.

Councilman Todd Gloria said the figures come with a backdrop of low pay for officers, when compared to nearby jurisdictions, and a low officers-to-residents ratio for a large city.

“We know that our officers are making the very most with the very least,” Gloria said. “These numbers are particularly praiseworthy.”

Separately, Zimmerman reported on data collected from vehicle stops last year in an effort to quantify the issue of racial profiling.

According to cards filled out by officers about their stops, black motorists accounted for 11 percent of vehicle stops and 23 percent of searches, despite comprising only 5.5 percent of San Diego’s population. Hispanic drivers made up 30 percent of the stops and 40 percent of the searches, comprising 27 percent of the population.

Stop and search rates for whites and Asians were below their population shares.

“The data shows the problem exists,” said Mark Jones, a black ex- Marine who has pushed for changes in SDPD practices in the wake of fatal shootings of unarmed black men by officers in Missouri and New York last year.

The police have to change their culture from within, and enforce existing policies, Jones said.

San Diego police officials say that officers collected the data early in the last decade but the practice diminished over time. The SDPD resumed the practice late in 2013.

In a statement read by a staffer, committee Chairwoman Marti Emerald said she is working with San Diego State University to get an independent study of the vehicle stop data. Emerald did not attend the hearing.

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