Law enforcement, local leaders confront repeat crime offenders

Data of Part 1 crimes compiled by the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station from 2014 to Dec. 2021.
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While reported instances of crime have seen a relative hike over the last year, current law enforcement data shows an aggregate level of decreasing crime in the Santa Clarita Valley. 

The city of Santa Clarita reported a total of 2,316 Part 1 crimes in 2020, and 2,381 Part 1 crimes in 2021 for an increase of 2.8% in Part 1 crimes. The city of Santa Clarita gets the data from the SCV Sheriff’s Station and city staff have recorded crime data since 2014. However, these numbers do not represent the overall macro trend of crime going down, according to city officials. 

“While we are experiencing a slight increase in Part 1 crimes in the city of Santa Clarita – approximately 3% when compared to 2020 – Part 1 crimes are down nearly 30% when compared to 2016,” Kevin Strauss, communications specialists for the city, wrote in an email. “This was just before collaborative efforts between the city and SCV Sheriff’s Station to implement crime prevention strategies, which achieved the lowest crime rate on record in the city in 2018, 2019 and 2020.” 

The FBI defines Part 1 crimes in two categories: violent crimes — criminal homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault — and property crimes such as burglary, larceny-theft, grand theft auto and arson.  

According to L.A. County Sheriff’s Department data, for violent crimes, there was one more incident of criminal homicide this past year, making a total of four reported cases compared to three reported cases in 2020. There was a 17.02% increase in rape, with 42 reported cases in Santa Clarita and 13 reported cases in unincorporated areas of the valley – a total of 55 reported cases of rape in 2021.  

Data also shows there was no significant change in robberies with 83 cases reported in 2021. Deputies have seen a 10.5% increase in cases of aggravated assault — 211 incidents of aggravated assault in 2021 compared to 191 incidents of aggravated assault from 2020.  

In property crimes, burglaries in the SCV decreased by 15.3%, from 426 burglary cases in 2020 to 361 burglary cases in 2021. Larceny theft, an umbrella term used to describe stealing involving the taking of physical objects, increased by 7.48% from 1,709 reported cases in 2021 of larceny-theft compared to 1,590 reported cases of larceny-theft in 2020.  

Reported cases of grand theft auto rose by 20% with 390 reported cases in 2021 compared to 325 reported cases in 2020. Lastly, SCV deputies observed a 144.44% increase in arson with 22 cases in 2021 compared to 9 in 2020. 

However, local officials are still beating the drum that crime — should it continue to rise — will become problematic under recent directives from the county’s top prosecutor.   

“In general, crime has been going up since, basically, the beginning of the year,” said Capt. Justin Diez, of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “This is a long, long conversation.”  

According to Diez, the issues surrounding an increase in crime begin in March 2020 when COVID-19 modifications created a zero-bail system — allowing people arrested on misdemeanors or many non-violent crimes to bail out of custody with no money.   

For law enforcement, the implications of a zero-bail system means they make an arrest, issue a citation and a few hours later an individual, who committed a crime, would be released into the public. They would be able to commit the same crime again, added Diez.   

In addition, in December 2020, George Gascón became district attorney for L.A. County. Gascón introduced a multitude of directives, which included eliminating cash bail and policies prohibiting the prosecution of certain categories of crimes.   

“There is no filing on a litany of crimes, and essentially, we are dealing with a significant number of repeat offenders,” Diez said.   

In the Santa Clarita Valley, sheriff’s deputies have arrested and rearrested multiple repeat offenders. Those numbers are growing every single month, added Diez.   

SCV Sheriff’s Station deputies define a repeat offender as someone who deputies arrested two or more times at the SCV Sheriff’s Station.   

“Our deputies are continuing to be proactive in making arrests,” Diez said. “Regardless of the D.A.’s policies, the SCV Sheriff’s Station will not stop identifying violators of the law, arresting them, and conducting follow-up investigations.”  

According to preliminary data from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Transparency Promise, from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30, 2020, versus 2021, there has been a slight increase of Part 1 crimes.   

Data compiled by the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station from 2014 to approximately December 2021.

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, said it’s “heartbreaking to watch (crime occur).”   

“It’s not something that is only happening in Downtown Los Angeles or urban areas across the nation,” Garcia said. “We’re starting to see it in the suburbs, too.”   

Garcia said he’s been hearing concerns from constituents from the 25th District, which he represents, about the amount of crime happening. He’s observed many smash-and-grab incidents and other low-level crimes that would be treated as felonies, but now are being dismissed or not dealt with.  

“We saw this coming. This is a byproduct of this ‘defund the police’ movement that did affect our local law enforcement,” Garcia said. “Whether it’s (cutting the budget) for the Los Angeles Police Department or LASD, it’s now affecting how we can combat some these crimes.”  

Although crime has increased, Garcia said there’s a silver lining – Republicans and Democrats are working together to combat the rising rates of crime throughout the state.   

“It’s one of the few issues that is a bipartisan issue that is building bridges. People, you know, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” Garcia said. “When people dial 911, they want the cops to show up (and help them).”  

Garcia and other U.S. representatives from California are working to support local, state and national law enforcement agencies and increase public safety. Garcia recently co-sponsored the Public Safety Enhancement Act of 2021, H.R. 6132, which would provide grant funding to hire an additional 100,000 police officers within the next five years.   

The legislation would reauthorize a portion of President Joe Biden’s 1994 crime bill, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, that was used to combat the surge in crime by putting more officers on the streets.  

Garcia said to combat increasing crime rates the community has to support local law enforcement, and political leaders have to provide sufficient funding to continue essential services.   

“Contact your local representatives,” Garcia said. “They’re (sheriff’s deputies) working long hours to try to get everything done with limited budgets. Be respectful of them, and let’s continue to report everything we see and make sure that Santa Clarita remains one of the safest cities in the nation.” 

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