Violent crime is now on the upswing in San Diego County, reversing a trend of declining rates that spanned several years.
Public safety experts say it's too early – and the data available, too limited -- to draw solid conclusions about an 8 percent spike in violent crime during the first six months of this year, versus the first half of 2011.
A number of factors, including the cumulative effect of a recession now heading into its fifth year, may be in play.
But one in particular – a controversial piece of state legislation that took effect last October – will keep getting a close look.
Whatever the cause or causes, Sheriff William Gore says law enforcement will actively be looking for answers in future quarterly, semi-annual, and annual compilations of the region’s crime statistics.
"We're going to watch and try to address through intelligence-based policing -- where we can -- to address the crime rates and to be predictive, instead of just reacting to crime," Gore said in an interview Wednesday.
After hitting 30-year lows, it may just be inevitable that local crime rates would go up -- 7 percent as of mid-year for property crimes, 8 percent for violent crimes, as compiled by the San Diego Assn. of Governments (SANDAG).
SANDAG Report Highlights
- An average of 32 violent crimes were reported every day in the first half of 2012
- 3,599 property crimes were reported to local law enforcement agencies in the first half of 2012
- 6 percent increase in robberies
- 13 percent increase in burglaries in past year
- 9 percent increase in aggravated assaults
- 26 percent increase in number of rapes reported across the region
And during the past several years, public safety spending hasn't exactly been extravagant.
"Our cops can't be everywhere,” says Cynthia Burke, SANDAG’s director of criminal justice research and public policy. “We know that we don't have as many officers on the street. We've heard in other cities, they're putting two cops in a car. They're really trying to do as much as they can with the resources that they have."
And they may have to do lot more, as thousands of low-level state prison inmates shift to local custody and probation supervision under a so-called "realignment" law known as AB 109.
Local enforcement agencies have detected fallout in the nearly 11 months since it went into effect.
"We have some anecdotal information that realignment is having an effect on the crime rate, and pushing it up," says San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne. "Certainly we're seeing some connection between the two as we see our crime rate in the city of San Diego."
Rehabilitation experts suggest it doesn't help that re-entry programs are seriously underfunded.
Says Scott Silverman, former executive director of the renowned “Second Chance” program and founder of a new life-coaching venture,"With Tough Love": "There's no indication, with all these people coming out of prison -- where there used to be that 80 percent would go back in -- that they're going to be doing different things because they're in a new classification of AB 109."
Silverman points to rampant unemployment, substance abuse, mental health issues and dysfunctional families as underlying challenges.
"People are desperate,” he says, “and when they're desperate, they're going to do desperate things."
At this point, under AB 109, the state is only subsidizing the counties for two-thirds of what the "realigned" prison inmates used to cost the Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation.
Full funding depends on the voters passing, Prop. 30, Governor Brown's tax-hike measure, in November.