Santa Monica experienced a 15% drop in serious crime in the first nine months of the year compared to the same period last year, according to the Santa Monica Police Department.
Chief Cynthia Renaud announced Tuesday that there have been 655 fewer Part 1 crimes this year to date — about 2.3 fewer per day — and particularly significant decreases in car break-ins and assaults. Part 1 crimes include homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft.
If the trend continues, 2019 could be the first year that serious crime has fallen in five years after reaching a low in 2014 and climbing 29 percent between 2015 and 2018. It could also put Santa Monica on par with Los Angeles, where crime was down in almost every category last year for the first time in five years.
Renaud said car break-ins have dropped by 17.5%, down by 120 incidents from last year in Downtown Santa Monica alone.
“The busiest parking structures are seeing reductions in criminal activity, which can be attributed to a few new changes we imposed, such as private security patrols and an intensified focus on our crime suppression missions,” she said.
Murder fell by 50%, with three occurring in 2019. There were 31 cases of rape in 2019, a 16% decrease.
Thefts are down 17%, but Santa Monica still experienced almost nine thefts per day in 2019. Burglaries decreased by 8% and occurred at a rate of 1.5 per day.
Assaults and robberies happened at a rate of less than one per day and dropped by 23% and 5%, respectively.
Arson was the only category of Part 1 crime that increased. SMPD recorded 22 cases in 2019 and nine cases the previous year.
Renaud has taken several steps to reduce crime since she was hired as chief of police, including hiring 20 officers, putting more officers on patrol, devoting more resources to problem areas like Downtown Santa Monica and establishing a unit dedicated to tracking and responding to crime trends.
“When I arrived in April of last year, I made a promise to the Santa Monica residents, businesses and the community overall that I would dedicate my first year to reducing crime and community outreach,” she said.
SMPD spokesperson Lt. Candice Cobarrubias said the department has also focused on crime suppression strategies. SMPD analyzes where and when crime is happening and then patrols the area heavily, deploys undercover officers and asks non-sworn public safety and traffic services officers to serve as an extra set of eyes.
“People are less likely to commit crime if they feel there is a cop or police presence on every corner,” Cobarrubias said. “The best metaphor I can think of is you have a bleeding wound, you saturate that wound with gauze, cover it and press on it until the bleeding stops. The same applies for crime prevention.”
Renaud she understands that a handful of recent high-profile incidents — which include two robberies on Montana Avenue, an officer-involved shooting in Ocean Park and a murder in Wilmont — have attracted media coverage and may have made community members feel unsafe.
“I want to reassure when crimes occur you have an extremely professional and highly trained police force working to keep you safe every day,” she said.
She asked residents to stay aware of their surroundings and belongings, especially while using their phones, and to report suspicious activity to 911 or SMPD’s non-emergency dispatch number, 310-458-8495.
This article was updated Oct. 8 at 3:10 p.m.