CITYWIDE — The number of violent crimes in the city last year was the lowest since 1963, according to data provided by the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD).
Property crimes were up thanks to a spike in the number of larcenies, according to the data.
Until 2011, SMPD released annual reports including all crime data. To align with City Hall’s the biennial budget, the department began releasing the report every two years. The Daily Press requested 2013 crime statistics and compared the results to police department data dating back to 1956.
“Please know that crime rates are a result of a confluence of factors, internal as well as external,” SMPD spokesperson Rudy Camarena said in an e-mail. “An attempt to describe a nuanced reality with a single index is at best a leap of faith, devoid of intellectual integrity. The figures represent a proxy used to identify overall trends as well as a qualified measure of performance relative to efforts.”
There were 125 robberies in the city in 2013, down from 151 in 2012. Aggravated assaults also dropped, from 219 in 2012 to 173 last year. Both categories were at their lowest since 1963, when SMPD recorded 117 robberies and 47 assaults. In the early 1990s, assaults swelled to over 600 annually and robberies were in the 700s.
“From a police department’s standpoint,” Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said, “we attribute our success in pushing back crime to our steadfast commitment in maintaining close ties with our community. People talk to the police when they trust the police. A truism in policing, much like in journalism is that information is our currency. It is that information flow that helps us prevent and solve crimes.”
There were seven homicides in the city last year, five attributed to the mass-shooting spree carried out by John Zawahri on June 7. Two SMPD officers, along with a Santa Monica College officer, killed Zawahri in the SMC library. Police were lauded for their response and all three officers are receiving commendations this week.
Just days after the shooting spree, Gil Verastegui, 29, was shot and killed in an alley off of Michigan Avenue. Verastegui was a gang member, according to reports.
There were only two recorded homicides in 2012 and one in each of 2010 and 2011.
In 2013, there were 29 reported rapes, up from 23 in 2012. Last year, the FBI expanded the definition of rape — removing the term “forcible” — in the context of crime statistics.
“A more expansive definition of an offense, much like changes in methodology will inevitably result in an immediate increase in reports without much change in the underlying circumstances,” Camarena said.
These four categories — rape, homicide, robbery, and assault — are considered violent crimes. There were 334 total violent crimes last year, down from 395 the year prior. The total is the lowest in 50 years, according to police data.
There were 164 reported thefts of automobiles in 2013, the lowest in the police department’s recorded history. Cars were stolen in the thousands every year in the 1980s and 1990s.
Burglary dropped slightly, from 586 in 2012 to 579 last year.
Larceny, defined as a theft of personal property that didn’t require breaking into a residence, was the highest since 2002, with 2,793 incidents. There were 2,634 incidents in 2012.
This was due, in part, to one prolific bike thief, Camarena said.
In May of 2013 the Criminal Investigation’s Division served a warrant and arrested the thief.
“The investigation netted a considerable number of stolen bicycles and property,” Camarena said. “The suspect, a veritable one man crime wave, triggered a spike in larceny reports as the owners of previously unreported incidents reclaimed their property.”