Violent crime in Newport dips

Following the same trend as the last two years, crime in Newport Beach declined in 2013, according to preliminary numbers from police.

Combined, violent crimes and property crimes dropped exactly 1% — although property crimes increased very slightly, the department's brass announced at a monthly statistics meeting that reporters were invited to attend Thursday.

"We're safer today in Newport Beach than we've ever been in the history of the city," Newport Beach Police Department Chief Jay Johnson said.

Only 77 violent crimes were reported in 2013 compared to 106 in 2012 and 120 in 2011.

Rapes, robbery and aggravated assault were all down, with an almost 50% reduction in robberies: 14 in 2013 compared to 27 in 2012.

The only violent crime that ticked up was homicides. There were two in 2013 in a city that rarely sees killings. Only one homicide was reported in the five previous years, according to statistics provided by the department.

Property crimes increased ever so slightly with 2,228 total thefts, burglaries and arsons in 2013 compared to 2,223 in 2012 and 2,294 in 2011.

When broken into distinct categories, some property crimes saw a larger boost.

Residential burglaries climbed to their highest rate since 2009, increasing 10% over last year with 270 incidents, but stats like a 16.5% decline in garage burglaries and 7.7% reduction in burglaries or thefts from vehicles leveled out that boost.

The drop in crime was not spread evenly throughout the city.

Total crime actually increased in two of Newport Beach police's four patrol areas.

In Area 2, which stretches north from the Upper Newport Bay to the Huntington Beach border and down to the top of the Balboa Peninsula, crime jumped 13.5% for the year, but much of that increase was caused by spikes in February and March that the department spent the rest of the year trying to rein in, said Lt. Damon Psaros, the officer responsible for the zone.

Nevertheless, the area ended the year with 51 more thefts, 19 more residential burglaries and 21 more cases of property stolen from vehicles than in 2012.

Both of the city's homicides also took place in Area 2, but overall violent crime declined because of drops in rapes and aggravated assaults.

In Area 4, which covers Newport Coast, there was a 3.8% bump in total crime, mostly due to 10 more thefts and nine more commercial burglaries compared to 2012. Violent crime remained flat.

Overall, the city's crime decrease marks a turnaround from the beginning of the year in Newport Beach, according to the chief.

In the first few months of 2012, the city as a whole was facing double-digit increases in crime.

"We all took a breath and said 'It's going to be a long year," he said.

With that reminder, he asked his command staff to get a jump in the early months of 2014, one of the few areas ripe for improved statistics that he called harder to beat each year.

"Each year we're comparing to better and better and better numbers," he said. "That's an opportunity for us that I'm seeing. … We've got to take advantage of it."

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