Serious crime fell 2.9% last year, police report says

By Jorge Casuso

Feb. 1, 2022 — Calls to the police department in Santa Monica rose in 2021 after plummeting the previous year, and crime fell to its lowest level in five years, according to police department data released this week.

There were 101,040 calls for service last year – down from 97,536 in 2020 – as the ongoing coronavirus shutdown continued to dampen crime reports in the seaside town.

The number of serious crimes reported fell 2.9% from 4,377 in 2020 to 4,248 last year, according to a summary of crime statistics based on preliminary data.

Graphic courtesy of the Santa Monica Police Department

In 2021, there was a “notable decrease” in reports of rape (from 37 to 23), residential burglaries (from 406 to 325) and thefts in general (from 2,504 to 2,453), while thefts qualifiers saw a smaller decrease (from 166 to 157), according to the summary, which is subject to revision.

Reports of aggravated assault rose from 281 to 364 last year, major auto thefts rose from 394 to 420 and arson fell from 59 to 81, while homicides fell by one together.

Civil unrest in 2020 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have made the past two years “an anomaly”, SMPD officials said.

The arrest rate has “significantly dropped” over the past two years due to “stay-at-home” orders and “efforts to limit potential exposure” to the virus, the report said.

To give the crime statistics a better context, the report provides serious crime data from 2017.

According to the data, the use of firearms in aggravated assaults hit a five-year high, rising from 18 in 2017 to 30 last year.

The same goes for auto parts theft, which shows a “significant increase” over the past five years “largely due to the prevalence of catalytic converter thefts.”

Large-scale auto thefts have also increased over the past five years, from 265 in 2017 to 420 last year, with a notable increase in thefts of trucks and “other” vehicles.

Arson attacks have also increased, with more than 40% of incidents involving “garbage cans and recycling bins set on fire”.

In 2020, there was a “significant spike” in non-residential burglaries “due to COVID-related closures and civil unrest on May 31, 2020.”

Over the past five years, crime has increased from 5,009 reported incidents in 2017 to 5,441 the following year, before dropping to 4,601 in 2019, a drop of more than 16%.

The downward trend has continued during the coronavirus emergency for the past two years.

“Although the total number of reported crimes is down, we are sensitive and respect the fear of crime,” police chief Ramon Batista said.

“Our focus and attention to crime and disorder issues will always be a top priority at SMPD,” Batista said.