Violent Crime Slipped, but Property Crime Rose


Crime in California increased 3.7 % last year over 2000, the state attorney general said Thursday, though violent crime dropped 0.8% over the same period. Total property crime was up 6%.

It’s the second consecutive increase after historic declines in the 1990s.

The arrest rate dropped by 2.3% per 100,000 population – the 12th consecutive decline. Felony arrests among adults dropped 1.7% and by 5.8% for juveniles.

According to figures released by the state Attorney General’s Office in March, crime in Fresno increased by 15.2% last year compared with 2000. In the rest of the county, crime rose 13.2%.

Fresno’s violent crimes – homicide, rape robbery and aggravated assault – jumped by 6.6%. Property crimes, including burglary and vehicle theft, increased by 18.4%.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Department logged 16 homicides in 2001 compared with 12 in 2000. Robberies increased by 25.2%, and aggravated assaults rose 10.9%.

In Tulare County, crime declines by 10.8%, which the department attributes to strong community–based policing efforts and programs fighting drug abuse.

Violent crime in Tulare County dropped 32%, while property crime rose 2.5%. Aggravated assault dropped the most, slipping 37.7%, according to the preliminary numbers released in March.

“California is at a crossroads,” Attorney General Bill Lockyer said in releasing the report. “The slight increase in the overall crime rate in 2001, after years of steep decreases, suggests that the long period of impressive annual decreases in crime has ended, at least temporarily.”

But there’s no consistent trend, Lockyer said: While rates for four of the six major crimes increased, one dropped and one stayed steady.

Homicides were up 5%, robberies up 4.2%, burglaries up 2.6% and motor vehicle thefts up 10.2%, according to the California Crime Index. However, aggravated assaults dropped 3.1%, and rapes stayed unchanged.

Lockyer noted experts often tie the crime rate cycle to the economy or to the percentage of young males in the population. But despite experts’ best efforts, he said, so far no single factor can be blamed for the increase.

Experts and law enforcement are struggling to figure out why the steep declines have leveled off and what they can do to spur further decreases.

California’s crime rate dropped 49.7% from 1991–1999, including a record 14.9% one–years drop in 1999.

*The FRESNO BEE contributed to this report.