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The violent crime rate in San Diego County increased slightly while property crime decreased during the first six months of 2006 compared to the same time period in 2005, according to a report released today by the San Diego Association of Governments.

Local law enforcement agencies reported a total of 6,740 violent crimes, which include homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, from January to June. The mid-year crime rate for the first half of 2006 is 4.40 per 1,000 people, compared to 4.35 per 1,000 people in 2005.

The total number of homicides jumped from 43 to 65, marking a 39-percent increase from the first half of 2005.

Cynthia Burke, who authored the SANDAG report, said anecdotal evidence from local police sources indicates that the increasing murder rate may be linked to drug cartels and gangs. That information can’t be confirmed until statistics are available for the full year, Burke said.

While robberies also jumped 12 percent, the number of rapes and aggravated assaults in San Diego County continued a five-year decline, dropping by 10 percent and 2 percent respectively since last year, according to the report.

Overall violent crime decreased in the cities of San Diego (2 percent), El Cajon (8 percent), Santee (15 percent) and some incorporated areas including Fallbrook (24 percent), Spring Valley (3 percent) and Valley Center (6 percent).

The cities of Carlsbad (33 percent), Chula Vista (13 percent), Encinitas (16 percent), Imperial Beach (24 percent), La Mesa (26 percent), National City (25 percent), Lemon Grove (47 percent) and San Marcos (40 percent) all saw double digit increases in violent crime.

Countywide, the rate of property crimes, larcenies, burglaries and vehicle thefts, dropped for the third year in a row, from 32 per 1,000 people in the first half of 2005 compared to 30.28 this through June of this year.

Larcenies and residential burglaries declined by 5 percent while commercial burglaries increased by 4 four percent. Vehicle thefts also dropped by 5 percent, according to the report.

DANIEL STRUMPF

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