LONG BEACH — Property crimes in Long Beach spiked dramatically in 2012, rising 9.9 percent from the previous year, with residential burglary, garage burglary and bike theft each at six-year highs, police announced Friday.
Residential burglaries were up 19 percent, while garage burglaries increased by 46.2 percent. In addition, vehicle thefts jumped 19.1 percent with 421 more incidents being reported in 2012 than in 2011, according to the Long Beach Police Department's annual crime report.
Violent crime, on the other hand, hit a 40-year low in 2012, with the city experiencing its lowest rates in that category since 1972.
Police Chief Jim McDonnell said that many property crimes are preventable with the help of the community.
"Last year, we as a department focused on violent crime, and our 40-year low is something for the city to really be proud of," McDonnell said in a press release. "As to property crime, we really need the community to step up and eliminate simple opportunities for property to be stolen."
McDonnell estimated about 40 percent of last year's burglary and theft calls involved victims who had left homes, garages and cars unlocked or open.
Police officials said another cause of the spike could be the region's still lagging economy, but they insisted the property crime issues could be addressed quickly with the help of the community.
Mayor Bob Foster pointed toward state prison realignment legislation as a major factor in the jump in property crime. Assembly Bill 109 resulted in thousands of nonviolent California inmates being released early.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 109 and AB 117, known as Realignment Legislation, in 2011. Implementation of the bills began on Oct. 1 of that year and saw non-violent, non-sex offender inmates moved from the state prison to county jail systems.
Los Angeles County initially shifted thousands of state inmates to already overcrowded county jails, triggering the early release of thousands of other, lower-level inmates in order to make room. Voters put a stop to that in November with the passage of Prop. 30.
"We are clearly seeing the effects of Realignment as it relates to property crime, as State policy has put thousands of additional criminals out on the street, resulting in increased property crime in communities in California," Foster said in a press release.
McDonnell told the Press-Telegram last week that there is no real way to identify if property crimes can be attributed to AB 109 inmates. He said it is "extremely difficult to track," but noted that some complaints from officers are that they are "dealing with repeat offenders."
Despite the higher property crime rate, city officials were enthusiastic about the continued decline in violent crime.
Citywide violent crimes decreased by 5.2 percent last year from 2011.
Foster said he was "very proud of the Long Beach Police Department and our entire public safety continuum for achieving yet another reduction in violent crime, especially in an era of fewer financial resources."
The two violent crime categories that increased in 2012 were murder and rape, with five more murders in 2012 than in 2011 and three more rapes in the same time period, according to the Police Department.
Of the 30 murders in Long Beach in 2012, 14 were investigated as gang related. There were 115 rapes, up from 112 in 2011, but still down from 134 in 2010.
Aggravated assaults, which rose 2.2 percent in 2011, dropped last year, going from 1,400 to 1,323. Arson, a category that saw one of the most drastic increases in 2011, with a 79.7 percent increase, saw a decrease of 9.8 percent from 2011 to 2012.
McDonnell added the statistics are important, but said the community often gauges the Police Department's effectiveness on how soon their calls for help are answered.
The average response time for "Priority 1" emergency calls slipped a little, increasing to 4.4 minutes from 4.2 minutes in 2011, according to Aaron Eaton, spokesman for the Police Department.
The Police Department's ranks have dwindled in recent years due to budget cuts. It has 792 sworn officers, which is down from 828 in 2011 and down by 208 from the department's historic high of 1,000 officers three years ago, according to police officials.
Officials noted, however, the effectiveness of joint law enforcement operations, such as Operation Summer Heat, a four-day multi-agency enforcement that took place in June 2012. The action saw 280 arrests for shootings, gang crimes and narcotics offenses as well as sex offender and probation compliance, officials said.
McDonnell said the department will continue to work with local, county, state and federal agencies.
Long Beach 2012 Crime Stats
|Petty Theft ($50+)
|Petty Theft (under $50)
|Grand Theft Auto||2,622||2,213||2,189||2,358||2,870||2,500|
- Source: Long Beach Police Department