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    For years, San Diego police have been touting falling crime rates alongside their efforts to become a more efficient agency. But now, after a few months of rising crime, police say they need more money or crime will spike.

    It’s no small request from the cash-strapped city of San Diego. Police want an additional $66 million over the next five years to hire more officers and other staff, upgrade their equipment and repair facilities.

    And to support the need for this expense, police have been citing a recent shift in violent crime (murders, rapes, robberies and assaults). Between January and May this year, police reported 12.6 percent more crimes than the same period the previous year.


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    “It’s starting to get away from us a little bit,” Police Chief Bill Lansdowne told a City Council committee Wednesday. “It’s my professional belief that the crime rate will continue to rise.”

    While the department’s statistic accurately reflects its crime reports, the figure distorts broader crime trends in San Diego. In its push for more funding, police compared current crime levels against one of the most unusual periods in city history.

    The graphic below illustrates the number of violent crimes per month since January 2008. The areas shaded in blue represent the scope of the Police Department’s comparison, and the areas shaded in purple represent the same five-month period in three previous years.

    The big takeaway: The five-month period in 2011 that police are comparing this year’s numbers to marked one of the lowest periods of violent crime in years. If you compare the current year to 2008 or 2009, crime has gone down. If you compare it to 2010, crime is nearly the same.

    Criminologists generally discourage comparing crime over short periods like the Police Department did. They put more weight behind annual totals since crime can fluctuate radically in a matter of months.

    If you compare violent crime over the past year like criminologists often do, the Police Department’s warning to the City Council evaporates. In the past 12 months, police reported 5,359 violent crimes. In the 12 months before that, they reported 5,392 crimes.

    So between the two years, crime decreased slightly. It didn’t go up.

    Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

    Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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      This article relates to: Community, Fact Check, Government, News

      Written by Keegan Kyle

      10 comments
      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      Wait 'til the general fund takes another hit from Mayor Sanders and the city council majority supporting Irwin Jacobs' unneeded bypass bridge, connecting road and parking garage at Balboa Park. Only council member Sherry Lightner opposed it. Thank goodness there is one fiscally responsible person on the council. Her opponent in the November council district one race would have gone along with other fiscally irresponsible DeMaio, Faulconer and Zaph.

      Activist
      Activist

      Wait 'til the general fund takes another hit from Mayor Sanders and the city council majority supporting Irwin Jacobs' unneeded bypass bridge, connecting road and parking garage at Balboa Park. Only council member Sherry Lightner opposed it. Thank goodness there is one fiscally responsible person on the council. Her opponent in the November council district one race would have gone along with other fiscally irresponsible DeMaio, Faulconer and Zaph.

      Nick Hodnett
      Nick Hodnett subscriber

      Love you point Daddude. Lets address the problem, not the symptom. Education, strong community and regular police patrols to educate and prevent.

      Nick_316
      Nick_316

      Love you point Daddude. Lets address the problem, not the symptom. Education, strong community and regular police patrols to educate and prevent.

      Nick Hodnett
      Nick Hodnett subscriber

      The City is in shambles and the police department needs to shoulder some of the brunt as well. The public cannot have its cake and eat it too (i.e., free services, only to complain about the quality of those services). If you want more police pay for your damn trash to be picked up!

      Nick_316
      Nick_316

      The City is in shambles and the police department needs to shoulder some of the brunt as well. The public cannot have its cake and eat it too (i.e., free services, only to complain about the quality of those services). If you want more police pay for your damn trash to be picked up!

      Michael Freedman
      Michael Freedman subscriber

      Mark Twain said: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

      Ysidro1
      Ysidro1

      Mark Twain said: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

      Craig Nelson
      Craig Nelson subscribermember

      Officer Smith is correct however in stating "if there are less police, there are probably less crimes being reported" - i wonder if Smith or Keegan have the historical #'s of officers on payroll to see if they really have dropped.

      Craig Nelson
      Craig Nelson

      Officer Smith is correct however in stating "if there are less police, there are probably less crimes being reported" - i wonder if Smith or Keegan have the historical #'s of officers on payroll to see if they really have dropped.