Major crimes in Laguna Beach dipped by 4.3% in 2009 over the previous year, according to the Laguna Beach Police Department’s annual report.
The fact that the city now has a full complement of officers for the first time in several years has improved many areas of policing the city, said Lt. Jason Kravetz.
The increased police presence has translated into a 22.4% increase in felony arrests; a 20.1% increase in warrant arrests; and a 31% increase in traffic stops over 2008 figures.
In Part One Crimes, which include homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary and larceny, the city’s first murder in seven years resulted in a 100% increase in homicide/manslaughter.
Most major crimes showed little or no change, but figures indicate 25% fewer burglaries in 2009 compared with 2008 figures.
The drop in burglaries probably shows that Lagunans are being more careful to lock their doors, Kravetz said.
Aggravated assaults — where victims are seriously injured — remained double what they were as recently as 2007, but three more were tallied in 2009 than in the previous year.
A total of 11 rapes were reported, one more than in 2008 or 2007, a 10% increase. However, the incidents were primarily date or acquaintance rape, in which the victims knew their attackers, Kravetz said.
“None of these are incidents in which women were attacked, for instance, by someone who broke into their homes,” he said. “Laguna women shouldn’t be afraid” due to the slight increase in rape reports, he said.
Reports of sexual crimes other than rape fell to seven, compared with 16 in 2008.
In other crimes, narcotics-related crimes jumped by 32% to 563, which Kravetz attributes to the efforts of four police officers who have been very active in this area, particularly in undercover operations targeting drug dealing.
Kravetz said he has not been able to determine the reason for a 24% increase in simple assaults in which victims are not seriously injured, which rose to 174 in 2009 from 140 in 2008.
A 36.4% increase in citations he attributed to extra patrols at Heisler Park, instituted last year following a stabbing of a homeless man by another homeless man and complaints of rampant illegal behavior in the parks and beaches.
One area of surprising reduction is in driving-under-the-influence arrests, which fell by 10.9% compared with 2008 levels.
Kravetz believes this is due to fewer DUI checkpoints in 2009 than in the previous year, in addition to greater emphasis on educating bar and restaurant employees in recognizing inebriated customers and to stop serving them alcohol.
The statistics also show a 23.7% drop in emergency calls to the department, but Kravetz said this is offset by a 34.9% increase in non-emergency calls, all due to reclassifying burglar alarms from emergency to non-emergency status.
Parking enforcement officers issued 14% fewer parking tickets in 2009, a drop that Kravetz attributes to an unusual increase of 20% in parking tickets in 2008.
That, he said, was due to the department adding a summer employee to its roster that year. The 2009 figure is about the same as 2007.