San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Tony Young sent in some thoughts about the post I put up last night. I wrote that this home invasion in La Jolla was going to prove to be a “watershed” crime.

What I meant is that the mayor has been talking a lot about how safe the city is. Yet at the same time, we’ve experienced some serious incidents lately that have captured a lot of attention. These incidents may prove to crystallize opinion against the mayor’s rosy outlook.

And Young’s point was that it shouldn’t take crimes in these areas to raise community wide concerns.

Scott, Is the safety of residents in La Jolla, Mission Beach and Hillcrest more important that the safety of residents in other parts of the city? Considering the reaction by the media, local talk show hosts and certain segments of the community the answer is clearly, yes.

I covered the high-profile kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart several years ago in Salt Lake City, and this very topic — the interestingly disproportionate attention to certain crimes against certain types of people — was my focus. (Here’s that story if you’re interested in what I writing about five years ago.)

That was kind of the point my previous post. While there are unacceptable occurrences of violence in all parts of the city, this crime — like the rapes in Mission Beach — is going to fire up a lot of people. The police officers will seize on it as proof that they need a raise — that only a salary raise will attract more people to serve as San Diego cops and that only more police presence can squelch crimes like these.

La Jollans, already well known for their ability to command the attention of the City Council, are going to be all over this. But then, a good part of the rest of the city will pay attention too. How many people heard about this story and said “If a billionaire’s home can be invaded, how safe am I?”

I understand Young’s frustration. There are people who every day experience crimes and violence and we don’t react like we’re going to react to this one.

He elaborated his perspective on what happened in Mission Beach and La Jolla in a voice mail as we traded phone calls.

“It’s pretty clear there are issues like that all over the city not just in my district but all over and it’s pretty clear that there are certain communities that get a whole lot more media attention and attention in general for issues like this,” Young said.

And finally, nothing like the news of what happened in La Jolla to ruin a good storyline for the mayor. Not too long ago, Mayor Jerry Sanders came out with a report that he said proved the city “remains one of the safest large cities in the country.”

But he had to admit at the same time that the number of murders and robberies went up significantly.

From the mayor’s report:

Additionally, the number of robberies increased from 1,862 to 2,164, a 16.2 percent spike.

  • Although there is always a concern then there is an increase in a particular category, it’s difficult to point to a specific reason or reasons to explain these increases and still be accurate. Statistically, you can’t look at one year to determine what is occurring. The police will monitor the statistics in these areas to determine, over time, if they represent a trend or an aberrational up tick.

It’s funny that they write “statistically you can’t look at one year to determine what is occurring” in the same report about how safe the city is according to the statistics from one year.

But narratives of violent crimes, like what happened to Ernest Rady, are more powerful, for better or worse, than any statistic anywhere.

SCOTT LEWIS

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