Violent crime rate down

COSTA MESA — Violent crime in Costa Mesa dropped 14% in 2009 compared with the year prior, according to statistics released in the FBI’s annual report on violent crime.

There were 301 violent crimes in Costa Mesa in 2009, compared with 350 the year before. The FBI considers homicides, robberies, rapes and aggravated assaults violent crime.

There were only two homicides between 2007 and 2009, police statistics show.

In October 2009, police said 76-year-old Kenneth Leake shot his wife in their home off Orange Avenue, accounting for the lone homicide case. The FBI report shows there were also fewer rapes, with 27 being reported last year compared to 39 in each of the two previous years. Rapes have been steadily decreasing since at least 2004, records show.

Robberies, on the other hand, remained about average over the last five years. There were 114 reported robberies in Costa Mesa in 2009, compared with 120 in 2008.

Though there was a significant drop in 2007, the years before showed Costa Mesa typically saw between 115 and 120 robberies annually.

Police reported 162 aggravated or felony assaults in 2009. That signified a drop from 190 in 2008, which was a the high-water mark for aggravated assaults in Costa Mesa.

Costa Mesa has averaged 153 robberies during the last six years, statistics show.

As the recession set in across the country in 2008 and 2009, local police maintained a handle on violent crime while property crimes went up.

With the city still struggling to tighten its budget, police officials said crimes will take longer to solve with lower staffing and shifted priorities.

The data show, however, that at least through August, police have been able to maintain average reported levels of both violent and property crimes.