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FBI Ranks Irvine 7th Safest Among Larger U.S. Cities : Crime: Simi Valley is safest in the nation. San Bernardino has the worst record of any California city with more than 100,000 people.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Irvine was the seventh safest U.S. city with a population of at least 100,000 last year, according to figures released Sunday by the FBI.

“We’ve moved up. We were 10th last year,” Irvine City Manager Paul O. Brady Jr. said upon learning the news. “I don’t know if you can really place one reason on it. We like to think it’s a combination of good planning . . . good safe neighborhoods.”

The safest city in the nation was Simi Valley, a white-collar community in eastern Ventura County, with a crime rate of only 27.8 per 1,000 residents.

The rankings are based on major crimes reported to the FBI by local police departments. Orange County cities ranged from Irvine’s low of 39.9 crimes per 1,000 people to a high of 66.7 crimes per 1,000 in Fullerton.

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Other Orange County cities ranked this way per 1,000 inhabitants: Huntington Beach, 48.6; Orange, 52.7; Santa Ana, 64.2; Garden Grove, 64.8. The rate for Anaheim was unavailable because it was one of seven cities nationwide with more than 100,000 people in which the FBI reported only partial figures. The national average was about 58 crimes per 1,000.

Mayor Pro Tem Paula P. Werner credited Irvine’s success to a communitywide intolerance of criminal activity. “We’ve been able to get that sort of ranking due to the active participation of our residents in their community and a professional police force,” Werner said. “We also have no tolerance of gangs, drugs and drunk driving.”

Irvine’s Brady said the credit for his city’s high ranking should be shared by many, including past and present city council members, city administrators and the local school system.

“We have had the good vision to put together the types of programs that make it safe,” he said. “The one thing we have been watching closely is our gang activity so it doesn’t get a strong foothold.”

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The city’s one homicide victim in 1993 was a resident who apparently confronted a burglar in her home, city officials said.

Despite the high ranking, Irvine still is not a city where residents should go to sleep with their doors unlocked, according to Brady.

“I don’t know if there’s a city in the country where you can do that,” Brady said. “Even though it’s a safer community, I don’t think you can let your guard down.”

For the fourth time in five years Simi Valley topped the nation’s list of safest large cities. The Los Angeles County suburb of Santa Clarita ranked fourth.

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In displacing Amherst Town, N.Y., as the safest urban area, Simi Valley’s serious crime fell 18.4% in 1993 due to citizen involvement, a surge in arrests of drug users and a police crackdown on theft rings from the San Fernando Valley, officials said.

“It’s nice to be recognized again as the safest city in America,” said Mayor Greg Stratton, noting previous designations in the mid-1980s. “It restores what we had--(a reputation) that we have a really great place to live and do business, and where you can still walk the streets at night.”

Simi Valley’s image was tarnished in 1992 after a jury sitting at the East County Courthouse failed to convict four Los Angeles police officers of assaulting Rodney King, sparking the Los Angeles riots.

A recent fatal schoolyard stabbing of a 14-year-old boy has also heightened fears about youth crime in Simi Valley.

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But the FBI statistics put residents’ growing fear of crime in a different perspective, Stratton said.

“Our crime totals are back to where they were five or six years ago,” the mayor said. “I think a lot of what we’ve seen has been a (spillover) from the opening of the freeway to Los Angeles. People started to realize there was this nice place called Simi Valley that was fresh pickings. We started to get a lot of out-of-town criminals.”

Other low crime rates in California included per 1,000 inhabitants: Fremont, 40.6; Sunnyvale, 41.4; Glendale, 44.4.

Of the state’s 10 largest cities, San Jose had the lowest crime rate, 45.7 crimes per 1,000 people.

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Oakland had the highest rate among the largest California cities with 117 crimes per 1,000 residents, followed by Fresno, 115; Sacramento, 104; San Francisco, 90; Los Angeles, 88; Long Beach, 81, and San Diego, 74.

San Bernardino had the highest rate among all cities in the state with more than 100,000 residents--132 crimes per 1,000 residents.


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