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Statement: “District 8 has the highest rate of motor vehicle theft in the city: almost one third of all cars stolen in San Diego are stolen in District 8,” says the campaign website for David Alvarez, the recently elected city councilman, as of Nov. 10.

Determination: Mostly True

Analysis: Voters elected Alvarez last week to replace District 8 City Councilman Ben Hueso, who represents the city’s southernmost neighborhoods. Alvarez defeated Ben Hueso’s brother, Felipe Hueso, with 58.7 percent of the total vote.

Along the campaign trail, Alvarez and Felipe Hueso battled to win over residents by emphasizing public safety as a high priority. Felipe Hueso highlighted an endorsement from the police officers union while Alvarez stressed his support from the firefighters union.

On his campaign website, Alvarez listed improving public safety as his top issue. He called District 8 one of the city’s most crime-stricken areas and pointed to the number of stolen cars as an example. He said almost one-third of all car thefts in San Diego happen in District 8.

And in fact, that citywide comparison comes pretty close to the numbers reported by police.

Alvarez’s campaign said the statement refers to a six-month slice of crime data published online by local law enforcement agencies. During the first half of 2008, San Diego police reported 1,561 motor vehicle thefts in District 8, which represented 29 percent of the citywide total, 5,415.

Twenty-nine percent is pretty close to one-third, but to be sure, we also expanded Alvarez’s query of crime data to see whether his six-month slice represented an unusual spike in crime.

Since the beginning of 2008, San Diego police have reported about 25 percent of all motor vehicle thefts happening in District 8. That’s a little farther from one-third, but the difference shows that the six-month period cited by Alvarez wasn’t that out of the ordinary.

Several of District 8’s border communities have been leading the way. Since the beginning of 2008, police have reported nearly 1,700 thefts in San Ysidro — the most of any neighborhood in the city. The next closest, Palm City, which is just north of San Ysidro, had 852.

Although Alvarez’s comparison checked out with the six-month slice of data reported by police, we’ve called his statement mostly true since there is a nuance to consider.

It’s worth noting that the six-month period represented a higher pattern of motor vehicle theft than police have reported more recently. The district’s total fell closer to one-quarter than one-third in recent years.

Also, the statistical crime category called “motor vehicle theft” involves more than just stolen cars. The totals cited by Alvarez include, for example, a small fraction of boats, trailers and motorcycles. As a rule of thumb, motor vehicle theft tracks the stealing of any vehicle registered with the DMV.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Make sure to explain your reasoning.

If you want to know motor vehicle theft in your community measures up to District 8, check out graphic below. The map uses a heat scale to show the number of thefts in each neighborhood since the beginning of 2008. The bar graph shows the total for each council district in the same period.

Please contact Keegan Kyle directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/keegankyle.

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