The shining centerpiece of crime trends in San Diego last year was the drop in murders. Police reported 29, the fewest since 1968, in a city with now 1.3 million people.
The nearly 30 percent decline from the previous year grabbed local headlines and made San Diego stand out among other major cities, where murders had either grown or not shrunk by as much.
But the phenomenon didn’t last long. Police reported 25 murders during the first half of 2011 — four shy of the total for all of last year — and then four more this month, records show. One more murder would bring the city above last year’s total.
More murders during the first half of the year returned San Diego to previous, not-as-shiny levels. The number still falls well below past annual totals reported by other major cities but it’s no longer a historic low for San Diego.
By comparison, police reported 26 murders during the first half of 2008 and 24 during the first half of 2009. Homicide investigators were not immediately available to comment, but at least one trend likely contributed to this year’s rise in murders: gangs.
Last year, police reported a historically low number of gang-related murders and attributed it to the overall drop. This year, however, police have faced rising gang-related tensions in southeastern San Diego neighborhoods. Even before busier summer months, violence spurred retaliatory shootings, press conferences, peace rallies and funerals.
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The difference between murders this year and last year is especially evident in Mountain View, a neighborhood tucked between Highway 15 and Interstate 805, and a geographic dividing line between different gang sets to the east and west. If San Diego has a murder hub, it’s arguably Mountain View.
In 2008 and 2009, police reported more murders in Mountain View than any other San Diego neighborhood (three each year). Then, last year, police reported no murders in Mountain View and none in the surrounding neighborhoods — places like Barrio Logan and Lincoln Park that historically also add to the city’s annual murder total.
But this year, Mountain View returned to previous levels and the top of San Diego’s murder chart. Police have reported three murders in the neighborhood with still six months of the year left to go. Barrio Logan and Lincoln Park have already added murders to the citywide tally, too.
Though police have previously acknowledged rising gang tensions and more gang-related murders, it’s unclear exactly how many of the murders this year are gang-related. Homicide investigators were not immediately available to provide their official count for comparison.
To find out whether any murders have happened near you, check out this online database managed by Sandag and local law enforcement officials. You can also find specific information about some murders on the Homicide Unit’s website and read why police are solving murders more often in these two stories.