A recently released study calling Santa Monica one of the least safe cities in California has been making headlines, but a range of City officials say its flawed methodology portrays an inaccurate picture of local crime.
The study ranked Santa Monica as 224 out of 230 cities for its violent and property crime rates per capita. According to the study, which relies on FBI crime statistics, Santa Monica has a rate of six violent crimes and 42.6 property crimes per 1,000 residents. SafeWise.com, a company that sells home security systems, has published the report for several years.
Statements shared by the City, the Santa Monica Police Department, the Santa Monica Police Officers Association and City Councilmember Christine Parra all criticize SafeWise.com’s use of Santa Monica’s 93,000 resident population to calculate per capita crime rates instead of the City’s average daily population of around 250,000.
“Swelling with an average daily population of 250,000 visitors throughout the day and during peak seasons, Santa Monica serves as a jobs center and a hub for state, national and international tourism which attracts millions of visitors each year,” said a City spokesperson. “To provide an accurate depiction of crime in the City, it is necessary to look at its average daily population.”
SafeWise.com, acknowledges in the methodology of its study that the use of residential populations may skew its calculations and fail to accurately represent a community when complicating factors such as large commuter populations, college campuses, and incarcerated populations are present.
“The number of visitors Santa Monica receives yearly could have had an impact on the per capita crime rates for the city,” said Andrew Hull, Communications Specialist for SafeWise.com, later adding, “we believe that for residents of Santa Monica and other cities with unique circumstances, it is still valuable to understand how many crimes are being reported in their city, whether they are committed by visitors or by residents.”
Another quirk of the study’s methodology is the equal weighting of all crimes, which include violent crime (aggravated assault, murder, rape, and robbery) and property crimes (burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft).
Councilmember Christine Parra said that after reviewing the study’s methodology, she did not agree with SafeWise.com’s findings. Parra is the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for Culver City and has a strong understanding of crime trends and emergency response systems.
“I also question a ‘safety’ report coming from a company who makes affiliate commissions from home safety systems that readers click on, etc., from visiting their website and reviewing their reports or recommended security systems,” said Parra.
Parra also said that in her opinion there is an uptick in crime both in Santa Monica and across L.A. County that elected officials are talking about extensively and working to address.
Other local cities also ranked poorly in SafeWise.com’s study. Beverly Hills was ranked at 204, Culver City at 220, West Hollywood at 212 and the City of L.A. at 200.
Recent SMPD data indicates that while overall crime rates in Santa Monica are decreasing, certain types of crime are on the rise.
In 2021, about 2.9 percent fewer Part 1 offenses — serious crimes including homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, grand theft auto and arson — were reported in the city compared to 2020. This follows a 5.5 percent reduction in those crimes from 2019 to 2020, and a 16 percent reduction from 2018 to 2019.
Specific crimes that have increased include non-residential burglaries, grand theft auto, auto parts theft and arson.
SafeWise.com’s study reflects Santa Monica’s overall decreasing crime rates.
“In Santa Monica, crime has been on the decline for the last three years, with the violent crime rate going from 8.6 incidents per 1,000 residents in our 2020 report to 6 incidents per 1,000 residents in the last year. Santa Monica’s property crime rate saw a similar trajectory, going from 51.1 incidents per 1,000 residents in 2020 to 42.6 incidents in the last year,” said Hull.
Santa Monica’s comparative safety rate to other California cities per SafeWise.com’s study has remained relatively similar over the past four years. It ranked 221 in 2019, 227 in 2020, 222 in 2021 and 224 in 2022.
The Santa Monica Police Officers Association took issue with Santa Monica’s safety rating per SafeWise.com’s methodology, but also said that the SMPD has been understaffed for the last few years, which impacts the department’s ability to lower crime rates.
“The SMPD is understaffed for a population of 90,000, let alone the 300,000+ who come on our busiest days. Property crime, which is a significant driver of our community’s low ranking among California cities in the study simply can’t be addressed without more personnel,” stated the SMPOA. “We are at a critical junction and The Santa Monica Police Officers Association calls on city leadership to work with us to bolster our ranks and give our department the resources we need to ensure safety in our community.”