In 2016, crime in San Diego drops to rates comparable to the late 1950s to early 1960s

San Diego’s crime rate last year was the second-lowest in 47 years, city officials said Tuesday.

The rate of violent crime dropped by nearly 5%, the lowest in four decades.

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman credited police-community partnerships and focused crime-fighting for the positive trend.

The result, she said, was 785 fewer crime victims in 2016 than the year before.

“This isn’t just a statistic or a random number. This represents real people,” the chief said at a news conference with Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Councilman Chris Cate in front of police headquarters.

Faulconer called the figures “great news for our community.”

“Our city is safe because of the incredible partnerships forged between our community and our San Diego Police Department,” the mayor said.

The city’s rate of 24.4 crimes per 1,000 residents is comparable to crime rates going back to the late 1950s to early 1960s, the chief’s report said. San Diego’s 2016 homicide rate was the lowest of the nation’s 10 largest cities. Overall crime decreased by 2.3% from 2015 to 2016, largely because of a significant drop in the number of aggravated assaults, burglaries and thefts.

Zimmerman said no particular community was hit hardest by crime. When police noticed developing crime patterns, she said, resources were shifted in that direction and focused on deterrence.

Officers took advantage of technology such as body-worn cameras, facial recognition software, gunshot detection systems and forensics, the police chief said.

Despite the good news of lower crime, Zimmerman said, the number of murders has risen for three years. They increased to 49 last year from 37 in 2015, in part because of a series of attacks targeting the homeless. However, homicides attributed to gangs and to domestic violence dropped last year, the chief said, and citizen complaints and allegations against police have declined by 36% since officers were first issued body-worn cameras in 2013.

“So incredibly important, and what so often goes unnoticed, is the wonderful relationship we share with our community,” Zimmerman said. “There are so many more ways now to connect with our community that didn’t exist five, 10, 20 years ago.”

The department used social media to publicize officers’ participation at community fairs, parades and sports events and to issue safety warnings and crime alerts. The San Diego Police Department got involved in nearly 1,800 community events and took nearly 1,000 people on ride-alongs last year, according to a separate report issued Tuesday.

Police spokesman Lt. Scott Wahl said a few examples of the department’s 2,000 community partnerships include Neighborhood Watch, the psychological response teams, homeless outreach and working with Special Olympics.

Zimmerman said the department constantly tries to improve on those partnerships and foster new ones.

“We know our community needs us, and we need community support,” she said. “By working together, we can accomplish so much more."

pauline.repard@sduniontribune.com

Repard writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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