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Serious Crimes Dropped 2.9 Percent Last Year, Police Report

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By Jorge Casuso

February 1, 2022 -- Calls for police service in Santa Monica inched up in 2021 after plummeting the previous year, and crime dipped to a five-year low, according to Police Department data released this week.

There were 101,040 calls for service last year -- up from 97,536 in 2020 -- as the ongoing coronavirus shutdown continued to dampen crime reports in the beach city.

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

Five-year crime statistics
Graphic c ourtesy Santa Monica Police Department

In 2021, there was a "notable decrease" in reports of rape (from 37 to 23), residential burglary (from 406 to 325) and overall larceny (from 2,504 to 2,453), while robbery saw a smaller decrease (from 166 to 157), according to the summary, which is subject to revision.

Reports of aggravated assault rose last year from 281 to 364, grand theft auto rose from 394 to 420 and arson rose from 59 to 81, while homicides rose from one to two.

The civil unrest in 2020 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have made the past two years "an anomaly," SMPD officials said.

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

To give better context to the crime statistics, the report provides serious crime data since 2017.

According to the data, firearm use in aggravated assaults increased to a five-year high -- from 18 in 2017 to 30 last year.

So did auto parts theft, which shows a "significant increase" over the past five years "largely due to the prevalence of catalytic converter thefts."

Grand theft auto incidents also increased in the last five years from 265 in 2017 to 420 last year, with notable increases in the theft of trucks and “other” vehicles.

Arson also rose, with more than 40 percent of the incidents involving "trash and recycle bins set on fire."

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

Over the past five years, crime jumped from 5,009 incidents reported in 2017 to 5,441 the following year, before falling to 4,601 in 2019, a more than 16 percent drop.

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

"Although the overall numbers of reported crimes are down, we are sensitive to and respect the fear of crime," said Police Chief Ramon Batista.

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

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