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Officials see crime drop, then rise

2011 marked banner year for law enforcement; early-release program cited as cause

Posted: February 15, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: February 15, 2012 1:30 a.m.
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Last year marked the city of Santa Clarita’s lowest crime rate ever, but the state’s early release of inmates has local authorities concerned about a potential spike in theft and drug arrests for 2012, officials said Tuesday.

For 2011, the city’s crime rate dropped by 7.81 percent compared to 2010, according to figures released Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

In 2011, there were 2,833 reported incidents within the city, a decline from the 3,073 reported crimes in 2010, the data shows.

“We had a very low crime year,” Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Paul Becker said Tuesday. “The lowest by far that we’ve had in a long, long time.”

Previously, 2010 was the city’s best-ever year for crime trends, but the continued decline paved the way for 2011 to be Santa Clarita’s lowest crime rate.

Within unincorporated Santa Clarita Valley, the crime rate decreased 15.9 percent, the figures show.

But Becker worries that Santa Clarita’s declining crime trend may end with the state’s decision to release inmates early to help California dig out of its budget shortfall.

“What we’re seeing now is crime going up,” he said.

A month into the new year, the city’s crime rate has increased by 11.93 percent compared to 2010 with 244 reported incidents in January in contrast to the 218 reported incidents in January 2010, the county figures show. Within the unincorporated Santa Clarita Valley, crime has increased by 44.36 percent from 2010 for the same reporting period.

However, crime over a five-year period has decreased for both the city and unincorporated Santa Clarita Valley.

Among the main reasons for January’s crime spike is the release of inmates who are considered by the state to be nonsexual, nonviolent and nonserious crimes, Becker said.

More than 300 early-release inmates are in the Antelope Valley, with an estimated 35 state parolees released early in the

Santa Clarita Valley, Becker said. Oftentimes, the inmates were serving sentences related to drugs and theft, two areas the station is trying to address locally.

“My concern is that we are seeing a spike in a lot of our areas that involve theft,” Becker said. “We’ve been doing good for two years. We’re marching in the right direction.”

At the same time, it’s only one month into the new year, which gives time for a fuller picture of crime statistics to develop, he said.

Becker hopes that the crime rate continues to decline for the rest of the year.

“In 2011, we have been doing a very good job at driving it down,” he said. “We knew at some point that we were going to bottom out.”

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