I just got back from a press conference outside the San Diego Police Department headquarters in downtown.

Mayor Jerry Sanders, police Chief William Lansdowne and new Executive Assistant Chief David Ramirez all talked positively about how violent crime and property crime are both dropping in San Diego. The overall crime rate — the number of crimes committed per 1,000 people in the city) is currently at late-1960s levels, the mayor announced, and the violent crime rate is at its lowest level since 1973.

There was also good news about recruitment. The current police academy has 52 recruits, Lansdowne said, that’s up from a couple of years ago when the department struggled to find more than a couple dozen recruits for each academy.

Lansdowne also said the SDPD’s attrition crisis has started to calm down somewhat. He said the number of officers leaving the SDPD has slowed from about 18 a month to about seven a month now.

“It’s because of our Mayor Jerry Sanders and certainly Miss Jill Olen and the council who have provided us the resources to continue hiring in the city of San Diego. We see nothing but good news and good promise for next year,” Lansdowne said.

The boost in staffing levels means the Police Department could well be fully staffed by the end of 2009, Lansdowne said. Previously, the department has said it wouldn’t be fully staffed until 2011.

More police officers means the department should also be able to refill some of the positions it once occupied on the region’s task forces. In the last couple of years, the SDPD has had to pull out of some of the largest regional crime task forces because it simply didn’t have the manpower to send staff to them.

But there is one blemish on the city’s crime statistics sheet. Gang crime, which spiked by 23 percent last year, will be a major focus of the department in 2008, Lansdowne said. The department will be working closely with community groups and with the city’s Gang Commission to try and target gang recruitment among young people, he said.

“You can’t enforce gang violence away,” Lansdowne said. “You’ve got to have a prevention program.”

Gang violence was also something Ramirez said he hopes to tackle head-on as he takes on the No. 2 position at the department.

WILL CARLESS

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