The overall number of violent and property crimes reported to the San Diego Police Department continued to drop in the first nine months of 2008 compared to the first nine months of 2007, though the number of homicides increased and the number of rapes reported rose by 34.3 percent, according to SDPD statistics.

The total number of index crimes — which include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft — reported to the SDPD dropped 7.6 percent in the first three quarters of 2008 compared to 2007. The number of domestic violence, hate crimes and crimes committed by juveniles all also dropped in that period.

The number of reported crimes committed by gangs was the only major category of crime to increase in the city from last year. There were 776 gang crimes committed in the first nine months of 2008, compared to 718 in the first nine months of 2007, an increase of 8.1 percent.

“From a per capita perspective, crime is at the lowest level it’s been in 40 years,” Mayor Jerry Sanders said at a press conference this morning, “with fewer than 35 crimes per 1,000 residents. This is the first time since 1966 that we’ve dipped under that 35 mark.”

Police Chief Bill Lansdowne praised Sanders and brushed off concerns about a recent announcement by the Mayor’s Office that the department will be cutting recruitment in half in the wake of the city’s $43 million budget deficit.

“Since we have 148 officers currently in the (recruitment) process and we’re still adding 25 people per academy, we think that we’ll be able to stay even for about a year and half, which gives us a little bit of breathing room with the very difficult budget problem,” Lansdowne said.

Lansdowne also said he expects that the number of officers on the street in San Diego will remain “pretty much constant” for the time being, and said the department won’t be cutting back on outreach services like community meetings.

The number of homicides reported in San Diego in the first nine months of 2008 rose slightly over last year, and the number of rapes reported increased by 34.3 percent, up from 207 to 278. But the overall number of violent crimes dropped by 3.5 percent, thanks to drops in the number of robberies and assaults.

Property crime was down across the board, led by a 15.2 percent drop in vehicle thefts. Lansdowne said he doesn’t foresee any increase in crime because of the worsening economic outlook in the region.

“I’m the eternal optimist in this process,” he said. “I’ve been doing this long enough to see the ebbs and flows. The economy certainly is a problem, but I believe we have a good plan in place so we’ll be able to manage the crime problems.”

“I don’t think we’re going to see a large increase and I can tell you why, it’s because we’re real lucky,” he added.

WILL CARLESS

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