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The most serious types of crime continued to decline in San Diego last year, according to police statistics released Wednesday.

The decline doesn’t come as a surprise since it followed similar drops in previous years, but the statistics once again highlight what we don’t about why crime happens and the role law enforcement plays in prevention. Because despite a sputtering economy, cuts to police budgets and having fewer officers per capita than major cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, crime continues to fall here.

One statistic in particular — 29 murders last year — also continued to show the stark contrast between San Diego and Tijuana, where 649 people were killed through November, according to the Baja California Attorney General’s Office. Last year, San Diego recorded the fewest number of murders since 1968.

Five more highlights from the new police statistics:

  • Police solved their cases, especially violent crimes, more often than in 2009. For the second year in a row, police solved more murders than new ones occurred. For police, solving a case means identifying an offender beyond reasonable doubt. It doesn’t necessarily mean the person was arrested or convicted.
  • Addressing previous drops in crime, Police Chief Bill Lansdowne and other local law enforcement leaders have suspected the economic downtown would lead to more domestic violence. It increased by nearly 5 percent in 2009, but then fell by 7 percent last year.
  • The statistics slightly reinforce recent concerns that hate crime related to sexual orientation is on the rise. There were 20 crimes last year, three more than the previous year. Overall hate crime increased slightly from 47 to 49 cases, bucking the previous decline.
  • The overall number of crimes attributed to gangs fell more steeply than the previous year. Apart from stealing cars, which increased slightly, gang crime fell across all other categories. Police counted four homicides related to gangs last year, five fewer than the previous year and 17 fewer than the year before that. (The chairman of the city’s gang commission has cautioned against reading into gang statistics, since they don’t necessarily represent a decline in actual gang members.)
  • Children were crime victims less often last year, especially before school hours and after curfew. Police attribute part of the drop to their curfew sweeps in southeastern neighborhoods and City Heights, which have some of the city’s highest crime rates.
  • Fewer children were arrested last year, except during curfew hours. The department’s curfew sweeps, which I highlighted in this story last year, allow some children to choose between taking a diversion course and receiving a citation. Critics say the program introduces kids to the criminal justice system unnecessarily. Police say taking children off the streets removes them from harm’s way.

To see the actual statistics released by police, click here. For more detailed statistics about your neighborhood, try one of these online databases. If you find something interesting, be sure to let me know.

Correction: The original version of the story incorrectly reported the number of murders last year. Police reported 29.

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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