The fear of crime is palpable in Santa Cruz. As chief, I frequently hear from people who are afraid to walk in some of the loveliest parts of our city. Some people are scared to walk downtown, others in parks and on beaches. We know when more people are out and about enjoying the town it makes criminals uncomfortable, exposed and under the microscope. Come enjoy our beaches, parks and the Pacific Garden Mall with me. I am there everyday on and off duty.
A person’s perception of crime and disorder is essential to personal health and the vitality of our city. Our community must have confidence they are safe in public space. We know the police are an important part of social order, as are the jails, courts and post-conviction supervision-probation. As my friend and mentor Professor Herman Goldstein said, “The strength of a democracy and the quality of life enjoyed by its citizens are determined in large measure by the ability of the police to discharge their duties.” Over the years Santa Cruz police officers have done and continue to perform exceptionally in spite of tough barriers and tall obstacles.
So, what is the truth; the reality of UCR crime in Santa Cruz?
The mean for violent crime since 1985 is 827 per 100,000 residents. In 2018 we experienced 596 crimes per 100,000 residents. Violent crime is 28% lower than the mean level of crime over the past 34 years. Similarly, the mean for property crime is 6,400 crimes per 100,000 residents. The mean for property crime in 2018 was 4,435 per 100,000 residents. Reported property crime is 30% lower than the mean level per 100,000 residents since 1985.
When one examines where we are currently from the high for property crime in 1985, property crime has fallen 64%. Violent crime reached a peak in 1996 and has declined by 50%.
So, if crime has reduced why do we feel less safe and what can we do about crime? The next blog(s) will address these important topics.