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SAN DIEGO — Violent crime is up across San Diego County, especially in San Diego city limits where police saw an 18.8% increase in the first half of 2021.

The statistics were revealed in a recent report by SANDAG that looked at crime in the San Diego region and how the numbers compare to prior years.

Violent crimes reported in the region during the first half of 2021 increased 14% over the last year, and were 9% higher than in 2019. From January to June 2021, the violent crime rate was 3.64 per 1,000 population, the second highest over the past 10 years. Compared to this time frame last year, the region has had fewer reported homicides and robberies, but a greater number of rapes and aggravated assaults.

Gang-related homicides are up 67%, according to the data. San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit says he sees more than statistics.

“I could talk about murder after murder after murder that’s been committed by someone using a ghost gun. I have to talk to that person’s family. My detectives have to talk to that person’s family,” Nisleit said. “Every time someone is killed in a community, not only is that victim’s family traumatized, but that community is traumatized.”

San Diego police are responding to the increasing crime, with felony arrests by officers up 18.3% during the same time frame, officials said.

The report also detailed the prevalence of so-called ghost guns in the San Diego community. The department has recovered 355 ghost guns since the beginning of the year, compared to 211 recovered in all of 2020.

Police estimate they’ll get about double that off the streets this year, and city council recently passed an ordinance to combat the proliferation of ghost guns in the community.

Part of SDPD’s efforts include a “guns for gift cards” event this Saturday. San Diegans can hand over unwanted firearms — no questions asked — from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Police Plaza on Murphy Canyon Road. Target gift cards ranging from $100-200 are offered in exchange.

“If I can remove a gun from a home where a person doesn’t feel comfortable with that gun being there, that’s one less gun that’s going to be removed from somebody’s home and then later used in a robbery or a shooting or a homicide,” Nisleit said. “Obviously there’s some incentives for that but ultimately it’s about driving down violence.”

City News Service contributed to this story.