Laguna crime statistics paint rosier picture

Violent crime decreased throughout Laguna Beach in 2013, according to police statistics released Thursday.

Three rapes, five robberies, 31 aggravated assaults and no homicides were reported last year, a 30% decline over 2012. The 39 offenses represent the fewest number of violent crimes since 2008. The next year, 2009, saw the largest number at 86.

Property crimes, which include burglary, larceny, vehicle theft and arson, also fell — by 13%, to 479, in 2013 compared with 551 in 2012.

Burglaries dropped 27%, to 89, while arson cases increased 25%, to five, in 2013.

"Laguna Beach is not alone in reporting [violent and property] crime decreases for 2013," Capt. Jason Kravetz wrote in an email. "Several jurisdictions are experiencing similar patterns, which can possibly be attributed to the improving economy and enhanced community outreach efforts.

"When the economy is struggling, we tend to see more property crimes, such as thefts and frauds."

Laguna boosted its watch by adding a downtown foot patrol officer and, at the City Council's direction, installing nine video monitoring cameras citywide.

The cameras not only help police investigate crimes — identifying a getaway vehicle if a bank is robbed, for instance — but assist in deploying resources, Kravetz said.

"For instance, a bad accident occurs at Broadway [Street] and Coast Highway," Kravetz said. "We need to send ambulances, fire trucks, police and parking staff to the area. 

"The dispatchers would have the ability to look at the screen and assess which lanes are blocked, how the emergency personnel should approach and when to issue a traffic alert. The cameras will also give us the ability to deploy the traffic aides in the event traffic is backing up in certain locations."

Meawhile, narcotics and vandalism incidents declined in 2013. Police logged 338 narcotics crimes, a 9% decline from 2012, while vandalism incidents dropped to 195, down 18% from a year earlier.

Weapons-related crimes rose to 20, a 66% increase from 2012, while fraud reports climbed to 115, up 10%.

Police got some help in cracking down on fraud. The department used an $18,000 real estate fraud grant from the Orange County district attorney's office to fund a fraud detective. The city won the competitive grant after officials gave a presentation on various real estate fraud cases in the community.

Driving-under-the-influence arrests dropped 40% last year. The 374 arrests were the fewest since 2009, when police made 417 arrests.

Four grants from the California Office of Traffic Safety in 2012 and 2013 helped police pay staff to hold seat-belt education days and monitor DUI checkpoints.

Felony and misdemeanor arrests decreased in 2013 from a year earlier. Felonies fell to 230, a 29% decrease, while misdemeanors dropped to 1,442, a 16% decline.

Police also issued fewer parking citations — 35,601 — in 2013, an 11% decline from the 40,050 tickets written in 2012.

While Police Chief Paul C. Workman said he is pleased with the report, he reminds residents that most property crimes reported in beach communities are preventable.

"We all play a part," he said. "By locking your vehicles, hiding visible items or simply activating your car alarm, you are working with the Police Department to reduce the incidents of crime in Laguna Beach."



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