FBI seal
Courtesy the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

More than a dozen Orange County cities saw violent crime increase last year, mirroring a national trend, according to FBI statistics released Monday.

In many cities, the increase from 2015 to 2016 was negligible, but in a few instances the boost was significant, including in Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa and Garden Grove.

Violent crimes listed in the report include murder and manslaughter — which are grouped together — rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults. Property crimes include burglaries, larceny-thefts, car thefts and arson.

In Costa Mesa, violent crime rose from 386 incidents in 2015 to 412 last year, but property crimes dipped from 4,723 to 4,610.

In Garden Grove, violent crime incidents jumped to 545, compared to 504 in 2014, but property crimes were down from 4,443 to 4,322.

Laguna Beach saw a jump in violent incidents from 76 such crimes two years ago to 116 last year. Rapes increased from eight to 15 in that time period and property crimes were up from 558 to 646.

Laguna Niguel’s violent crime rate jumped from 49 incidents to 65, and property crimes in the city increased from 691 to 751.

La Palma’s violent crime rate jumped from 13 to 37 from 2015-16, while property crimes rose from 304 to 369.

Brea saw violent crime incidents go from 80 in 2015 to 92 last year. Property crimes also jumped from 1,257 to 1,431 in that period.

Irvine, which annually touts itself as the safest city of its size in the country, saw violent crime go up, while property crimes declined.

Violent crime incidents went from 144 in 2015 to 152 last year in Irvine. There were two murders in the city two years ago and three last year, while rapes jumped from 27 two years ago to 41 in 2015, though property crimes declined from 3,868 to 3,737.

Kim Mohr, a spokeswoman for the Irvine Police Department, acknowledged the uptick in violent crime, “representing nine additional victims last year.”

She chalked up the increase to rape cases.

“The vast majority of these crimes were incidents in which the victim was acquainted with the perpetrator,” Mohr said.

Last year, school police officers and the Irvine Unified School District held seminars to educate the public about sexual assault, Mohr said.

Mission Viejo saw a significant decrease in violent crime incidents, from 86 in 2015 to 75 last year, with a drop in rapes from 14 to seven. Property crimes also dropped from 1,090 to 983 from 2015-16.

In the city of Orange, violent crimes increased from 172 to 228m despite a drop in murder/manslaughter cases from seven to one. Property crimes in the city fell from 2,897 to 2,608.

Santa Ana, which has been wracked with gang violence, saw violent crimes dip from 1,626 in 2015 to 1,612 last year, but murder/manslaughter cases jumped from 12 to 23. Property crimes tumbled from 7,270 in 2015 to 6,980 last year.

Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna attributed the deadly crime increase to gang violence, which is why police have implemented a program that staffs gang violence unit investigators every day of the week around the clock.

“That’s the very reason (Acting Chief David Valentin) has a new initiative to move resources to gang suppression to try to deal with the uptick in gang crimes,” Bertagna said.

He said that through August of this year, there have been nine gang- related homicides, the same as the same months last year, and three non-gang- related killings versus eight in the same period last year.

In Anaheim, violent crime incidents fell from 1,271 two years ago to 1,209 last year. The murder/ manslaughter rate dropped from 18 to seven and property crimes fell from 10,038 to 9,617.

“These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, tribal area or region,” the FBI stated in its report. “Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents.”

–City News Service

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