CITYWIDE — Crime reports in Santa Monica held largely stable from 2009, with the largest decreases seen in property crimes, according to a report released Tuesday by the FBI.

The 2010 Uniform Crime Report compiles information on reported crimes from more than 18,000 city, university, college, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies to provide a snapshot of crime in the United States each year.

This year, participating law enforcement agencies covered 97.4 percent of Americans, or 308.7 million people.

Across the board, national crime rates — or numbers of crimes committed per 100,000 people — dropped in each of seven categories, which fall under two umbrella groupings — violent crime and property crime.

Violent crime includes murder, aggravated assault, rape and robbery, while property crime encompasses burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft.

Those drops come in the face of an additional 1.8 million people in the national population.

“While this information is encouraging as a whole, when properly analyzed, these data also provide valuable insight into the nature and volume of crime in small and large communities alike,” wrote FBI director Robert S. Muller in a release.

California also saw a 6 percent decline in violent crimes and a 2.8 percent drop in property crimes, despite an increase in population, according to the report.

In comparison, violent crime in Santa Monica held rock solid, decreasing only slightly from 393 reported crimes to 392 between 2009 and 2010.

Property crime, on the other hand, decreased 7.5 percent from 3,354 to 3,120 incidents.

Theft, which falls under property crime, continues to be a major problem that local police deal with every day, said Santa Monica Police Chief Tim Jackman.

“It’s what we’ve focused most of our efforts on,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we start to have more of an impact on that, and see more dramatic decreases year to year.”

Over the last five years of reported data, Santa Monica has consistently shed crime, with a dramatic drop in violent crime noted between 2008 and 2009 when it shrank from 536 incidents to 393.

In that same time period, however, property crimes rose by nearly 15.5 percent.

The increase was largely driven by thefts out of cars, Jackman said.

“Larceny drove our numbers way up,” he said.

The overall decrease in crime bucked accepted thought that the slowing economy would equate to an increase in overall crime.

“It had the opposite effect of what many experts would have believed,” Jackman said. “What we’ve seen is that during major recessions, crime decreases.”

Between 2006 and 2010, Santa Monica maintained between 204 and 207 sworn officers, according to the report.

That’s high for a community of its size — 87,817 in 2010 — where a ratio of two to every 1,000 in population is considered normal.

But Santa Monica has other challenges, Jackman said.

Beyond a high homeless population, the daytime population swells to a conservative estimate of 250,000 people, which can get even higher in the prime tourism months.

With those additional people counted, the police force shrinks down to approximately 1.8 officers to every 1,000 people, which is closer to the norm for Southern California.

“We’re not like a lot of other cities of our size,” Jackman said.

The police department, which has a budget of over $70 million for the coming year, has been chipping away at some of its major problems over the past decade, which included a proliferation of street drugs and gang violence.

This is the first time in nearly two decades that Santa Monica could report no gang-related murders on its streets. The last occurred in November 2009.

The department put itself in a bind in its budget statement in May when it committed to reduce serious crime by 8.5 percent using the standards in the Uniform Crime Report.

That report counts victims rather than incidents of crime, which can make it seem like more crimes are occurring. For instance, if an individual robs a family of four, it counts as four crimes rather than one under Uniform Crime Report statistics.

Under those standards, crime in Santa Monica has only gone down 4 percent since the beginning of the year. Counting individual incidents rather than victims, however, crime has decreased 11 percent, Jackman said.

Residents have responded favorably to the department’s efforts.

A community survey conducted in February showed that emergency 911 services more than met citizens’ expectations, and that gangs, youth violence and crime were the least serious problems in the city.

Jackman attributes the success to a well-rounded approach from all sections of the community.

“It’s not just as a police department alone. Crime takes a community effort to reduce,” Jackman said. “We count on our brother and sister departments.”

ashley@www.smdp.com

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