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Fewer incidents of violent and property crimes happened in San Diego last year compared to the previous year, city officials reported today.

Violent crime — which includes murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — dropped by nearly 2 percent from the previous year. Property crime — which includes burglary, theft and auto theft — fell by 20 percent from the previous year.

These violent and property crime categories follow the FBI’s national reporting standards. Even though the categories do not include many crimes, they have been used to historically track a city’s crime rate. San Diego’s crime rate last year was 28.2 crimes per 1,000 residents, down from 34.5 in 2008.

Mayor Jerry Sanders and Police Chief William Lansdowne announced the statistics at a news conference this morning. Sanders used the updated crime rate to make a powerful statement at the beginning of his speech: “San Diegans are less likely to be victims of crime now than any time since 1963.”

At the news conference, Sanders emphasized that the number of murders in San Diego fell from 55 to 41 and the large drop among property crimes. Auto theft, for example, dropped by 30 percent, from 10,600 incidents in 2008 to 7,400 incidents in 2009.

In his portion of the news conference, Lansdowne pointed to a crackdown on San Diego’s gangs and stricter curfew enforcement for youth as possible reasons behind the falling crime levels. He also mentioned these efforts at the city’s last news conference about crime statistics six months ago.

In response to today’s announcement, the San Diego Police Officers Association, the local police union, questioned how the crime statistics were being used to describe the city’s conditions.

“All victims of crimes deserve to have their crimes identified and reported, yet the [FBI’s] reporting process does not reflect all crime data from a major municipality like San Diego,” the group said in a statement. “As a result, incomplete data is often used to report on increases or decreases in the crime rate.”

The police union said it wants the city to develop a more comprehensive report with a larger overview of the city’s crimes. Information about some crimes not counted toward the annual reports, for example, is only made available through the region’s crime mapping system online.

Be sure to check back on First Responder later today. I’ll have more analysis from crime statistics released today.

— KEEGAN KYLE

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