Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department crime numbers indicate that the number of Part-I crimes in the Santa Clarita Valley went up 13.6%, while the countywide rate increased 12.3% in 2022.
In discussing the figures, SCV Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez also noted the year-to-date figures for the SCV in 2023 are trending in the right direction, with the station’s numbers indicating there have been 100 fewer crimes this year compared to the same time period in 2022.
The 2022 crime data indicates there were 359 violent crimes within the city over the previous 12 months and 88 in the unincorporated areas, for a total of 447, compared to 378 total in 2021: 301 violent crimes in city limits in 2021 and 77 in the unincorporated areas.
Diez also noted this week that SmartAsset once again ranked the area as among the safest cities in the nation, with Santa Clarita ranked fourth by the financial tech website.
SmartAsset created its list by analyzing the violent crime rate and the property crime rate, as well as the drug poisoning and vehicular mortality rates, and the percentage of the population that engages in excessive drinking, defined as men who drink more than two drinks per day and women who drink more than one drink per day. That data is gathered at the county level through Public Health surveys, according to SmartAsset.com.
Looking at the same time period five years ago, the number of reported crimes is down by 150 compared to 2018, he said, also noting that in 2020, the city reported its lowest crime numbers ever. This is also consistent with statewide numbers that indicate property crime decreased by about 8% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two of the most serious categories of violent crimes, rape and murder, also saw big drops last year, according to city officials, who also noted the historic lows due to unique circumstances over the past two to three years.
“The city of Santa Clarita experienced historically low levels of crime during the pandemic, specifically in years 2020 and 2021, due in large part to many people working, learning and quarantining at home,” said Carrie Lujan, spokeswoman for the city of Santa Clarita, in a statement sent Thursday via text message. “As a result, years prior to and after the pandemic show significant changes in crime statistics. With that said, despite an increase in total Part-I crime when comparing 2021 to 2022, serious violent crime, specifically murder and rape, decreased in the city.”
There were four murders in 2021 in city limits and zero in 2022. There were also five fewer rapes (45 versus 40) in the same time span. Lujan also noted the 2023 data Diez mentioned represented a 14% decrease in year-to-date Part-I crimes and a 30% reduction over 2018.
In 2022, the largest percentage of increase in station-wide incidents, which includes the city and unincorporated areas, was in aggravated assaults.
In the SCV’s service area, aggravated assaults increased from 227 reported in 2021 to 290 last year.
“What’s very interesting is that many of our aggravated assaults are road rage, domestic violence ... and siblings on siblings, but it’s adult siblings on siblings,” Diez said.
The increase in familial violence is hardly an SCV phenomena, according to national and even global data.
“The National Domestic Violence Hotline received more than 74,000 calls, chats and texts in February (2022), the highest monthly contact volume of its 25-year history,” according to an article in the Harvard Gazette in June 2022 that refers to a “shadow pandemic” for domestic violence. The same article reports the American Journal of Emergency Medicine reported a 25% to 33% increase in domestic violence cases globally.
Those cases are often difficult to investigate and prosecute because the victims often decline to press charges, Diez said.
While noting the positives in the 2023 numbers, Diez said in addition to the station’s special teams conducting at least one extra crime-suppression operation per month in addition to their regular duties, the agency received a little bit of help from above last month.
“A big part of that, too, is we have a very wet January,” Diez said, noting the wet weather was helpful, as well as a lot of additional operations.
“And if (criminals are) indoors, if they're in their own homes, they're not burglarizing, stealing from others — they're not out committing various crimes, they are just inside their house,” he said.
“I’ll take it,” Diez said of the weather assistance. “I’m hoping for some more rain.”
He also said Tuesday that deputies with the Crime Intervention, the Special Assignment, the Juvenile Intervention, COBRA, Crime Prevention, School Resources and Detectives Bureau teams were all working significant overtime, as well as the additional operations.
About a year ago in February, in order to address a department-wide need for more deputies, LASD deputies were authorized to work up to 120 hours of overtime each month, about 30 hours per week.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, City Manager Ken Striplin noted he meets with Diez every two weeks to discuss crime in Santa Clarita, and one of the biggest problems is the uptick in property crimes.
“We still have a big problem in Santa Clarita where people leave their valuables on their dashboard, on their front seat, they don’t lock their vehicles,” Striplin said, “and it’s a theft of opportunity.”
As a way to combat the property crimes, Santa Clarita is once again reminding people with a Lock It or Lose It campaign, which, similar to the #9pmRoutine, reminds people to secure their property at night.