The crime rate has reached an historic low in Newport Beach, but police say there is good reason to proceed with caution because some types of property crimes are on the upswing.
The Newport Beach Police Department saw a 3.4 percent decrease in 2012 in serious crimes, which include homicide, rape, robbery, burglary and aggravated assault. Violent crime decreased by 10.9 percent and property crimes declined 3 percent, bringing the city's crime rate to its lowest point in 40 years.
"I think having a community as safe as Newport Beach requires a team effort," Newport Beach police Chief Jay Johnson said. "And I believe these numbers show we have a great team."
Johnson says the decrease in crime last year is attributed to great working relationships between police, an involved community, and a city manager and City Council who "place a high value on public safety through their actions of passing laws and policies."
Johnson said there are also other frequently overlooked departments that have made a profound impact on the safety of Newport Beach including the recreation departments, library services and the education system in Newport Beach.
"Studies also show that the well-kept physical appearance of our city, thanks to our public works department and our municipal operations division as well as our citizens, is also a deterrent for criminal activity," Johnson said. "The tremendous amount of parental involvement with our youth is another huge factor."
Another reason for the decrease in crime is the department's switch to a more data driven approach, where officers are scheduled based on crime data to put them in the areas where crimes were occurring. The department also chopped the number of officers who held positions inside the department, and instead moved them from behind a desk to patrol.
"The result of which was a 3 percent increase in the number of arrests in 2012," Newport Beach police spokeswoman Kathy Lowe said.
But although crime has decreased overall in the city, 2012 did see some troubling trends. According to police, the number of bike thefts rose by 18.1 percent or 38 crimes. Mail theft increased by 35 percent or 7 total crimes.
Johnson says there are also other challenges the city is facing, including the passage of Assembly Bill 109, the state realignment plan that took effect in October, which will put thousands of nonviolent, low-level offenders back onto the streets coupled with the fact that police departments across the region have fewer officers.
"It is imperative that the community do their part to report suspicious activity immediately and do what they can to “harden the target” by locking doors and windows and not leaving valuables in plain sight,” Johnson said.
Police say residents should participate in Neighborhood Watch and Business Watch programs and sign up for the Nixle community notification system, which sends out community information directly to residents via pre-recorded telephone call, email, text message and online notifications.
"Neighborhood Watch participation increased in 2012 as did the number of Nixle subscribers," Lowe said. "Keeping residents informed about crime trends allows them to better protect themselves and helps to reduce crime in Newport Beach."
To help keep the city's crime rate on the decline, new data collection systems are being implemented in Newport Beach to help police analyze crime data and predict crime trends. The information will also be shared with the community.
"Recognizing crime trends early allows us to direct our resources and have an impact before these crime trends become a bigger problem," Lowe explained. "We will be able to identify suspects sooner by using data to track their method of operation."
Residents are also urged to keep doing their part to maintain safety in Newport Beach. To help keep the thefts from continuing, police suggest the following safety tips:
- Residents should use a Post Office collection box or deposit their mail inside their local post office.
- Mail should be collected on the day it’s delivered. Never leave your mail or a package in your mailbox or on your doorstep overnight.
- Never send cash or coins through the mail.
- Schedule deliveries of packages when you know you will be home to accept the delivery.
- Have packages delivered to your place of business during regular business hours. This will ensure someone is available to accept the delivery.
- Alert a neighbor to look for your delivery if you know you will not be home at the time of delivery.
- Residents should track package delivery online.