Crime & Justice

5 takeaways from the state crime report

Photo: Lewisha Jones via Flickr Creative Commons

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra Thursday released the 2016 crime statistics. Overall crime continues to rise, but at a relatively low rate. Many crimes, including homicide, also remain at historic lows because of dramatic drops over the past two decades.

Here are some of the top takeaways from the report.

Violent crime is rising

The violent crime rate per 100,000 population increased 4.1 percent from 2015 to 2016. (Rates, not actual homicide counts, are used to accommodate for population fluctuations from year to year.) There were 174,701 violent crimes last year – 8,113 more than in 2015.

The homicide rate increased from 4.8 to 4.9 per 100,000 from 2015 to 2016. There were 1,930 homicides in California last year.

The biggest increase was in rapes, with a 6.4 percent rate increase. There were 13,695 rapes. The other two categories that make up violent crime for reporting purposes are aggravated assaults and robberies. Those rates rose 4.4 and 3.0 percent respectively.

Property crimes are down

The property crime rate decreased 2.9 percent in 2016 compared with 2015. Despite concerns in law enforcement that sentencing reforms like Proposition 47 would cause a spike, the residential and commercial burglary rate was down 5.3 percent and the petty theft rate dropped 3.6 percent.

One property crime keeps going up

After reaching historic lows a decade ago, motor vehicle thefts have been steadily rising. The rate rose 2.7 percent in 2016, Over the past six years, it’s gone up 22 percent.

A total of 176,676 car thefts were reported statewide in 2016. 

Police are solving crimes at a lower rate

Police and sheriff’s departments solved about 45.8 percent of violent crimes in California last year. That’s down about 2.6 percent from the year before.

"Clearance rates" for homicides dropped 3.9 percent. (A crime is considered cleared when at least one person is arrested, charged and turned over for prosecution.)

Police in California appear to be having particular trouble with property crimes, with the clearance rate dropping 8.7 percent last year – and 17.3 percent over the past six years. Of course, police rarely solve most property crimes. For example, they only cleared 10.7 percent of burglaries last year.

Juvenile arrest rates have dropped dramatically

People under the age of 18 arrested for misdemeanors and felonies fell 15.3 percent in 2016. Those arrests have fallen a whopping 57.6 percent in the past six years. It’s unclear why, but researcher Mike Males of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice produced a paper on the subject in 2015:

"In 2011, California decriminalized marijuana possession, and, in 2014, the state enacted Proposition 47, which reclassified some drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors," said Males. But he also has another idea.

“The absence of specific, statewide policy aimed at reducing the arrest of children, coupled with favorable trends in youth issues suggest the decrease in childhood arrests may reflect a real decrease in child crime, rather than a shift in arrest practices."