Crime, both serious and petty, has spiked by double digits this year according to the most recent reports from the Santa Monica Police Department that compare the first quarter of 2023 to the same time last year.
The most serious crimes, known as Part 1 (homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, grand theft auto and arson), increased by 149 crimes (14%). Part II offenses (simple assault, DUIs, fraud, vandalism, narcotics, etc.) increased by 119 crimes (19%).
While the overall number of calls into SMPD dispatch decreased by 1,683 calls (7%), officers arrested an additional 259 individuals (for a total of 662), a 64% increase.
Crime trends have see-sawed in recent years.
There were 1,212 Part 1 crimes in 2019. That dropped by 25 percent in 2020 due to pandemic era closures of public spaces. Serious crimes rebounded to 1,126 incidents in 2021 and then dropped to 1,028 last year before increasing this year to 1,177.
Part 2 crimes trends have been more predictable.
Starting with a high of 1,065 incidents in the first quarter of 2019, Part 2 crimes declined to 937 in 2020 and 566 in 2021 before starting to clime last year to 637 and then 756 this year.
The trends for the first three months of this year are on par with overall trends. Part 1 crimes increased by 10 percent over the entirety of 2022 and Part 2 crimes increased by 21 percent that year.
For the past several years, Southern California cities across the board have seen year over year increases in Part I and Part II crimes as the economy, tourism and other factors are returning to pre-pandemic levels.
In February of this year in a presentation to City Council, Police Chief Ramon Batista said that some of the increases have been caused by more proactive enforcement by officers specifically targeting the busier downtown areas and making more arrests than prior years. He also said that persistent staffing shortfalls, an increase in the number of incidents related to homelessness, and aging technology all contributed to the overall trend.
While SMPD has been hiring officers at a steady rate, injuries and retirements have prevented the department from reaching its budgeted maximum, which is around 220 sworn officers. Those vacancies have overlapped with the city’s homelessness crisis as the department would like to expand its homelessness outreach programs. According to Batista, the department is moving as quickly as possible to hire new staff with an expectation that its issues will be resolved well before the expected flood of visitors tied to the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
On the technology front, the department has had significant success with its drone program and is beginning to adopt new license plate readers, but Chief Batista said they still need to update the department’s crime mapping technology and find new systems to help officers review crime trends more quickly.
Lt. Erika Aklufi said the department has made changes to its patrol deployment to target resources more efficiently and she said there is evidence that joint operations with patrol officers and special units like Downtown Services and DART are starting to bear fruit. “We were able to positively impact the crimes downtown with those targeted patrols and while the numbers are up, the rate of growth has slowed in the months after that report was generated. We believe we will continue to see success with these operations over the next quarter,” she said.
2023 1st Quarter highlights Part 1 Crimes
: decreased from 82 incidents to 73 (- 11%) and 38 of the reported incidents resulted in arrests (52%). Fourteen incidents (19%) involved domestic violence. For information on getting help, identifying abuse or making a plan for safety, please visit https://www.thehotline.org/get-help/.
: Residential and non-residential burglaries were up 17 incidents (163 vs 180). Notably, 40% of residential incidents involved garages/carports and 31% involved apartment lobbies and storage areas. Residents are encouraged to contact their Crime Prevention Coordinator to request a free home security assessment.
: Increased from 580 to 735. This category accounts for the great increase in Part I Crime. There were 180 incidents of auto parts theft with catalytic converters accounting for 81% of reports. The Toyota Prius remaining the most targeted vehicle type. Shoplifting accounted for 153 larceny incidents. Sixty-two incidents (40%) results in an arrest. Nordstrom continues to report the largest number of shoplifting incidents followed by TJ Maxx. Burglary Theft from Motor Vehicles decreased by 23 incidents to 167.Pickpocketing Thefts increased to a total of 35 incidents versus 7 in 2022. The majority of incidents involved cell phones taken from victims at local bars. Three suspects were arrested in connection to several incidents were over 25 phones were stolen.
: decreased from 135 during this quarter last year to 110 this year with 68 vehicles (62%) recovered.
: Increased by eight incidents (47 vs 39 incidents). The use of firearms in the commission of these crimes was down by 2 incidents. Twenty-six incidents (55%) resulted in an arrest. Eleven robberies involved an employee or loss prevention personnel following a shoplifter, and the suspect used force or threats of force to avoid apprehension and get away with stolen merchandise.
: While eight incidents were reported during the first quarter of 2022, there were 13 during the same period in 2023, an increase of 5 incidents.
: Declined from 21 to 19 incidents. Approximately 68% of reported incidents involved city-owned trash and recycling containers.
2023 1st Quarter highlights Part II Crimes
In 2019, there were 1062 reported Part II crimes during the first quarter. This dropped to a five-year low in 2021 with 566 incidents. In 2023, there were 756 reported Part II Crimes.
- Simple Assault: Incidents of simple assault returned to 2019 levels with 174 reported incidents during the 1st quarter of 2023.
- Incidents of Vandalism dropped to 175 after peaking in 2022 with 182 incidents.
- Narcotics Possession: Incidents of narcotics possession, considered a pro-active arrest category increased from 27 to 58.