For the first time since 2001, violent crime in the San Diego region went up last year -- led by a 30 percent increase in homicides.
Local law enforcement chiefs met Wednesday to assess the troubling statistics, which were compiled by the San Diego Assn. of Governments based on FBI Index Part I crimes.
In 2010, the number of homicides countywide was 67 -- a three-decade low.
In 2012, there were 107 -- a 60 percent jump over two years.
Experts point to economic issues, public safety budget cuts -- and a lot more ex-cons on the streets since late 2011.
"Homicide is something that we definitely need to look at,” says Cynthia Burke, SANDAG’S director of applied research for criminal justice and public policy issues. “Is it something to be concerned about? Without a doubt."
The carnage has been keeping law enforcement investigators and forensic evidence technicians busier and busier, as the top brass targets more and more limited resources toward violent offenses, while de-emphasizing property-crime coverage.
"Over the last few years, law enforcement budgets have declined; the number of officers in the law enforcement profession have declined,” National City Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez told NBC 7 in an interview Wednesday following a SANDAG meeting of local police and sheriff’s officials at the El Cajon Police Department. “And in addition to that, we've had the early release of prisoners with AB 109."
Thousands of “non-violent, non-serious” prison inmates serving time for non-sexual offenses have been released to their home counties in the last 18 months under that controversial state law.
The exodus has left under-staffed local law enforcement agencies scrambling to supervise parolees and allocate jail space to newly sentenced, 'low-level felons.'
"And we're all pretty much of the same opinion, that the AB 109 realignment issue is something that the state needs to help the cities and counties address,” San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne told NBC 7. “And it means they're going to need some additional money so that we can do some of the oversight."
Meantime, danger on the streets and in the neighborhoods is trending upwards.
"When law enforcement has fewer resources, we need to keep working together, but it is going to be tough,” says SANDAG’s Burke. “And it's important for the community to try to work with us. It's going to be more important for people to do neighborhood policing efforts, to report crimes to police, to be proactive that way -- to be safe."
On the sunnier side of the regional crime ledger 2012’s robbery total was the second-lowest over a three-decade span, while the number of reported rapes was the fourth-lowest during that period.