BY JOHN WOOLFOLK
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
2 July 2003
SAN JOSE – California’s overall crime rate rose 2.4% from 2001 despite a drop in violent offenses, according to figures made public Tuesday by the state attorney general.
The figures showed property crimes such as burglary and auto theft climbed by 4.9% while violent offenses, including murder, rape, assault and robbery, fell by 2.7%.
Despite the slight overall increase, crime statewide remains at levels not seen since the mid-1960s, and well below its peak in 1980, said Christina Clem, spokeswoman for the California Department of Justice.
Overall crime in California is less than half what it was in 1980, and violent crime has fallen by one-third since then.
Nonetheless, public perception of runaway crime fed by a rash of brazen kidnappings last year pushed lawmakers into enacting a statewide Amber Alert system to quickly spread word about abductions using radio, television and highway message boards.
The system – named after ‘9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who in 1996 was kidnapped and murdered in Texas – made a dramatic California debut last August, helping police find and free two teenage girls 12 hours after they were abducted at gunpoint near Los Angeles.
Among the eight California counties with more than 1 million people, Santa Clara County had the lowest rates of overall crime and homicide, and the second lowest for all violent crime. Orange County had the secondlowest rates of overall crime and homicide and the lowest for all violent offenses.
Santa Clara County reported 2.2 homicides and 367 total violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2002. There were 37 murders in Santa Clara County last year, up from 34 the year before. Rapes and robberies each rose about 13% over the previous year, but a 30% drop in aggravated assault helped bring the overall violent crime rate down.
San Francisco County had 68 homicides last year, or 8.6 per 100,000 residents, and a violent crime rate of 772 per 100,000. Los Angeles County reported 1,162 homicides last year, or 11.7 per 100,000 people. The violent crime rate was 899 per 100,000 people.