A Mortifying Murder Rate in Santa Ana : Crime: The city had the highest homicide rate in Orange County in 1989, almost twice the number of slayings in any other city, state figures show.


Posting a dramatic increase in violent crime last year, Santa Ana had the highest homicide rate in Orange County with almost twice the slayings of any other city, according to a state crime report.

Statistics released this week by the state Department of Justice show that reports of murder and manslaughter in Santa Ana increased 39.5%, from 38 killings in 1988 to 53 in 1989. Thirty-one people were slain in the city in 1987.

Overall, violent crime in the county’s second-largest city rose almost 15%, from 2,021 reported incidents in 1988 to 2,318 last year. The state defines violent crime as willful homicide, forcible rape, aggravated assault and robbery.


Of the total, aggravated assault in Santa Ana increased from 853 incidents in 1988 to 1,056 in 1989. Reports of forcible rape, however, dropped from 89 to 74, almost 17%.

“There is a realization that Santa Ana is rapidly becoming an urban community with a large population,” said Lt. Robert Helton, a Santa Ana Police Department spokesman. “As a result, we have the same type of crime problems associated with large urban communities.”

The state crime statistics are part of a preliminary report prepared by the state Bureau of Criminal Statistics, which gathered figures from 50 of the state’s largest police agencies serving areas with populations larger than 100,000.

Law enforcement officials say the statistics are not necessarily an accurate picture of crime statewide. Police departments sometime inflate charges on the initial crime reports upon which the statistics are based, and the data does not show whether the original charges later were reduced or dismissed in court.

Santa Ana, with a population of about 240,000, in addition to an undetermined number of undocumented immigrants, has an estimated 7,000 street gang members and a serious drug problem not unlike other major metropolitan areas.

Of the city’s 53 homicides, statistics show that 13 occurred during arguments; 10 were gang related; seven were due to domestic violence; six involved a robbery or theft; four were associated with drugs; three involved alcohol use at a bar; two occurred in officer-involved shootings, and eight were unexplained.


In contrast, Anaheim, the largest city in the county, reported the greatest increase in homicides, 42.1%, in one year. In 1988, 19 people were slain compared to 27 in 1989. Reports of violent crime also increased from 1,442 to 1,651 for the same time period.

Countywide, 155 people were slain last year, a record number.

“If we could eliminate the drugs and gangs, perhaps you wouldn’t have some of these problems,” Helton said. “It’s a real difficult thing to get a handle on.”

While acknowledging that the homicide rate has increased, Santa Ana City Council members contended that the problem might not be as bad on a per-capita basis because of a large hidden population of undocumented immigrants.

“It’s very unfortunate,” said Councilman Miguel A. Pulido Jr. “We must work harder to address the issues, where we can address them. But I think we have a lot more people in this community than we are credited with having--42,000 alone applied for (immigration) amnesty. We get a picture worse than reality.”

Although violent crime has increased substantially countywide over the last year, the state statistics show that in some cities in Orange County forcible rape, burglary and automobile theft have decreased.

Reports of rape dropped from 30 in 1988 to 22 in 1989 in the city of Orange, while in Garden Grove they decreased almost 18%, from 51 to 42 for the same time period. In Fullerton, reports of rape and burglary dropped by 21.7% and 10.9% respectively.