Violent crime in California rose 10% in 2015, state attorney general says

After two years of decline, the number of violent crimes in California rose by 10% in 2015, although the overall crime rate remained among the lowest in decades. 

The numbers were up in all major categories of violent crime compared with those of 2014, according to reports released Friday by the state attorney general’s office.

Homicides increased 9.7%, and robbery and aggravated assault climbed by more than 8%.

Hate crimes followed the same trend, with a 10.4% jump. The vast majority of the uptick involved religious bias. Anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish incidents were up, as were those targeting Latinos.

Although the number of burglaries dropped, total property crimes climbed by 8.1%, driven by a significant rise in motor vehicle thefts.

Despite the upswing, overall violent and property crime rates per 100,000 were lower last year than in 2010, and remained dramatically lower than the peaks of the 1980s and 1990s.

Statewide, 1,861 people were slain in 2015, compared with more than 4,000 in 1993.

In 2009, the number of homicides across California dipped below 2,000 for the first time since 1974 and has fluctuated below that number ever since.

The breakdown of 2015 homicides reflected long-standing patterns.

The vast majority – nearly 83% – of the victims were male. About 47% of all victims were killed by friends and acquaintances; 31% by a stranger and nearly 15% by their spouse, parent or child. Women were more likely than men to be slain by their spouse.

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At 43%, the largest proportion of homicide victims was Latino, followed by 28.4% black and 21.3% white. Nearly 29% of homicides were gang-related. 

The weapons of choice were firearms, which were used in 70% of the slayings.

Monterey County recorded the highest homicide rate, 13.8 per 100,000, and Imperial, Placer and San Luis Obispo counties the lowest. In Los Angeles County, 592 people were killed in 2015, for a rate of 5.8. In Orange County, 57 people were slain, for a rate of 1.8.

Although rapes were up significantly statewide, part of the jump to 12,793 was the result of an expansion in the rape category to include both male and female victims and various forms of sexual penetration. Because of the changes, the crime report did not include percentage increases.    

Los Angeles Police Department statistics, released at the end of last year, mirrored the statewide data. All categories of crime rose across the city. Police reported 280 homicides in 2015, up 10.2% from 2014.

For the past decade, the most common category of hate crimes statewide has involved race, ethnicity or national origin. Sexual orientation is the second-most common motive and religious bias, the third. 

Anti-Muslim incidents rose from 18 in 2014 to 40 in 2015. There were 97 anti-Jewish incidents, compared to 80 the previous year, and 81 anti-Latino offenses, up from 60 in 2014. At 188, the number of hate crimes based on sexual orientation was virtually unchanged. 

Still, the total number of hate crimes reported in California has plunged by more than a third since 2006.

Burglaries declined 2.6% compared to 2014 figures, but motor vehicle thefts jumped 12.5% and larceny-theft rose 10.7%.

Juvenile arrests decreased for the seventh year in a row to the lowest levels ever.

bettina.boxall@latimes.com

Twitter: @boxall 

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