San Diego Police parked in the middle of the road to talk to a man yelling in Hillcrest on Dec. 20, 2022.
San Diego Police vehicle in Hillcrest on Dec. 20, 2022. / Photo by Gabriel Schneider for Voice of San Diego

Stops by San Diego Police Department officers have dramatically declined in the last three years. Cops are stopping people at roughly half the rate they did in 2019.

New mapping by Voice of San Diego shows the biggest drops occurred, somewhat predictably, in the areas where stops tended to happen the most.

Hover over areas on the map to see how much stops declined.

Ariana Drehsler / Voice of San Diego

Click here to view the map on police stops by beat in a new tab.

The greatest decline, in raw numbers, happened in East Village – the epicenter of public homeless encampments in the city.

In 2019, cops made 15,640 stops in East Village. That number fell to 5,667 in 2022.

Two things happened that likely fueled the decrease in East Village.

First, federal guidance during the pandemic suggested homeless encampments shouldn’t be broken up. Second, police officials decided to permanently remove officers from the Metropolitan Transit System. MTS has a major hub in East Village where all the trolley lines converge.

The second largest drop in raw numbers happened in a neighborhood that could hardly be more different: Pacific Beach.

PB is an epicenter of partying – and historically has been heavily policed for that reason. But starting in 2020, stops fell off precipitously. Stops dropped from 12,271 in 2019 to 4,395 in 2022.

The pandemic also likely played a role in the decline, since bars and restaurants were closed during the heaviest years of Covid-19 spread. What’s curious is that stops continued to decline in 2022, even as society reopened.

Will Huntsberry / Voice of San Diego

Click here to view the graph of police stops in a new tab.

The drops, generally, have been large all across the city. But exactly what’s fueling the decrease isn’t entirely clear. Police officials did pull cops from MTS and also committed to eliminating “saturation stops,” the practice of making many stops in neighborhoods with perceived high crime rates. But even police officials admit those don’t entirely explain the decrease.

As I wrote in our first story revealing the decrease:

Nobody has a firm, clear explanation for why the drop has happened, but there are some major theories: an ongoing staffing shortage within the department, the rise of citizens filming police encounters and the possibility that police are actually engaged in something of a soft strike, backing away from some duties to protest public animosity.

Other Interesting Takeaways

Very few neighborhoods had an increase in stops between 2019 and 2022. One notable exception was La Jolla – one of San Diego’s wealthiest and Whitest communities – where stops went from 1,598 to 2,245.

One of the largest decreases in stops, by percentage, occurred in Paradise Hills, a neighborhood made up mostly of Latino, Asian and Black residents.

Stops there decreased by 75 percent – down from 790 to 196.

In raw numbers, far fewer San Diegans of all races and ethnicities had less encounters with police than in previous years. Racial disparities within the overall number of stops, however, did not decline. Instead, they ticked up, Voice found, despite promises from SDPD’s chief to bring them down.

The percentage of White San Diegans who had forced used against them at the end of a stop went down, while the percentage of Black San Diegans that had force used against them went up.

Will Huntsberry is a senior investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego. He can be reached by email or phone at will@vosd.org or 619-693-6249.

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2 Comments

  1. This seems weird at a time when human rot is taking over our city. Dan Smiechowski candidate for mayor advocates more stops and jailing the rot.

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