VIEWPOINT: Assessing Claremont’s crime rates
by Edgar Reece, Chair, Claremont Police Commission
A flyer circulated by a Claremont city council candidate contains both misleading statements and incomplete conclusions about the city’s crime rate. The candidate’s statement reads as follows:
“Claremonters are tired of having their homes invaded and property stolen. In 2015 burglaries were up 13 percent and property crime 18 percent from the previous year. According to the FBI, in 2015 we suffered 25 percent more burglaries than La Verne and 30 percent more property crimes than San Dimas. We have to do more to lower these numbers and bring Claremont in line with other Foothill Communities.”
Based on my own experience and knowledge gained while working directly with local and federal law enforcement, as well additional research, I feel compelled to address this candidate’s statement.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) website warns specifically against using data for the purpose of compiling rankings of individual jurisdictions, stating “these incomplete analyses have often created misleading perceptions, which adversely affect geographic entities and their residents.”
Comparing crimes and corresponding rates against neighboring cities is in direct contradiction of the UCR report recommendations.
Highlighting certain crimes from the seven Part I Crimes can be equally biased. Like much of the country, Claremont’s overall Part I crimes are continually fluctuating. In response to the flyer, I have listed relative details of crime rates and influences in Claremont:
• Highlighting percentages of crimes is deceiving as the percentages suggest large increases in occurrences. For example, homicide increased by 100 percent in Claremont between 2014 and 2015, from zero to one.
• Claremont’s Part I crime index (crimes per 1,000 residents) is 28.87, much lower than municipalities near Claremont with consideration for the size of the cities and other distinctive characteristics.
• Claremont is a destination location, with Claremont Village, hiking trails, college campuses and an adjacent mountain resort. Our hiking trails alone bring over 300,000 people a year, 8,000 campus students and many more daily visitors.
• There are two major freeway systems providing easy access in and out of Claremont. It is not uncommon to learn that many of the arrests by the Claremont Police Department are individuals who are not residents of Claremont or even the local area.
As a direct point regarding the usage of crime data, the Claremont Colleges reported 251 crimes in 2015. Of those 251, 201 were thefts; 147 of these thefts were simple bicycle thefts. Looking only at the overall rate without looking at the specific crimes can create a misleading perception of crime trends.
It is worth noting that a partnership between the Claremont Police Department and campus safety is underway in an effort to reduce campus thefts. This partnership has achieved some early success in crime reduction.
The California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA) shows a dramatic crime increase in California during 2015.
There is a suspected correlation with the 2014 Prop 47 legislation, a statewide criminal justice reform that weakened sentences without requiring alternative rehabilitation for offenders. Beyond normal fluctuations, crime data reported in California shows a startling rise in crime with property crime increasing by 15.25 percent. The concern with violent crime is similar with a 15.41 percent increase in cities with over 100,000 as compared to 1.3 percent increase in other states.
A similar trend is also identified in cites with less than 100,000 residents. The overall increase in crime is alarming, with the highest increase in property crime since 1960 and the highest in violent crime since 1990; however, any increases are not unique to Claremont.
It is clear: rehabilitation and community level support services are needed to improve the lives of people released from prisons. Post-release services are essential in helping them from reoffending. It is vital when framing our social challenges that we are mindful of prison reform legislation such as Props 47 and 57 as well as the realization that crime is not simply a local issue.
There is more to crime than simply listing numbers or straight comparisons.
Although Claremont residents are growing tired of being victimized, this same feeling is likely being felt throughout California. Efforts should be focused on continuing to develop partnerships between the police department, police commission, residents, organizations and businesses.
We should also stand proud of the work being done those who serve our community in the line of duty. Lastly, incomplete conclusions that aim to increase the fear of crime and tarnish the efforts made by our police department is not a responsible position to maintain.