Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Mirroring a national trend, violent crime dropped across Orange County last year, with some cities reporting dramatic declines, according to an FBI annual report released Monday.

Irvine had its lowest per-capita rate of violent crime last year, according to Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for the Irvine Police Department. Irvine reported 113 violent crimes, which is actually up from 110 in 2012, but factoring in the growing population, the per-capita rate dropped, Emami said.

Orange County cities recording a drop in violent crime between 2012 and 2013 include Aliso Viejo from 43 to 35; Anaheim from 1,279 to 1,130; Brea from 74 to 64; Costa Mesa from 254 to 252; Cypress from 56 to 50; Fullerton from 452 to 372; Laguna Beach from 57 to 41; La Habra from 147 to 88; Lake Forest from 107 to 105; Los Alamitos from 27 to 24; Mission Viejo from 73 to 62; Newport Beach from 101 to 73; Placentia from 107 to 66; Rancho Santa Margarita from 27 to 17; San Clemente from 75 to 56; San Juan Capistrano from 59 to 57; Santa Ana from 1,334 to 1,121; Seal Beach from 17 to 16; Tustin from 114 to 100; Westminster from 284 to 283; and Yorba Linda from 53 to 30.

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens attributed the drops to teamwork among local, state and federal law enforcement.

“I think it’s that focus of working together. Ever since 9/11, we have been working closer together and you see more task forces between local agencies and the FBI,” Hutchens told City News Service. “And we’re using better technology and that kind of thing has a lot to do with it as well.”

Orange County also has been able to avoid “early release” programs due to jail overcrowding, Hutchens said.

“That’s why we’re expanding some of the jail in Musick so we can continue to keep people in jail,” Hutchens said.

The shift of some non-violent offenders to jail instead of state prison, however, has had an impact on the inmate population locally, Hutchens said.

The population has zoomed from about 4,700 to 6,800, “but we see that dropping down again a little bit, although it fluctuates,” Hutchens said.

To help manage the issue, the sheriff asked cities with their own jails to keep suspects behind bars as long as possible before transferring them to the county’s facilities, Hutchens said.

“But we haven’t had to do that for several months, and that number’s dropping,” Hutchens said.

The sheriff said she expects the recently voter-approved Proposition 47, which reduces many nonviolent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, to also affect overcrowding.

Housing more detainees in the county’s jails, however, will cut into its revenue from the federal government, which was renting beds for people suspected of violating immigration laws. The federal government has a contract to rent about 800 beds, but lately the number available is under 450, Hutchens said.

“It’s something we didn’t count on long-term anyway,” Hutchens said of the revenue. “But it helped us through some difficult years.”

City News Service

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