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Incidents of violent crime spiked to an unusually high level in September, according to statistical reports that were — until Thursday — withheld from the public for a mayoral press conference that never happened.

The number of violent crimes in September ranks above every month since January 2008. In that 22-month period, the average number of violent crimes in a single month was 503. San Diego Police reported 584 in September this year compared to 490 in September last year.

The statistical category of “violent crime” includes murder, rape, armed robbery, strong armed robbery and aggravated assault. In September, police reported that the number rape, armed robbery and aggravated assault crimes were above average levels. Police reported an average number of murder and strong armed robbery crimes.

Monthly crime statistics are regularly reported by the region’s law enforcement agencies at the end of every month, but San Diego Police delayed releasing its September and October statistics under order from Mayor Jerry Sanders. He wanted to hold a press conference to talk about the quarterly crime trends.

But mayor’s press conference never happened. It would have come at a time when the mayor is proposing cuts to the Police Department among other city services. Spokesman Alex Roth said the mayor was unable to fit the meeting into his schedule because he was focused on the proposed budget changes.

I asked Roth whether the mayor deliberately withheld the crime statistics from the public as he sought police budget cuts. Roth called that assertion “completely ridiculous.” He said the month of September was a statistical anomaly during a period of lower crime rates, and it had no impact on canceling the press conference.

Violent crime is down this year compared to a year ago. The number of incidents between January and October was 2 percent lower. And violent crime has been on a multi-year decline. It was 4 percent lower in 2008 than in the previous two years.

Property crime, which includes burglary, theft and auto theft, remained at below-average levels in September but comparable to recent months. The number of property crime incidents between January and October was 22 percent lower this year than the same period last year.

— KEEGAN KYLE

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