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Violent crimes declined in Southern California cities in 2009

May 24, 2010 |  6:22 pm
The number of violent crimes reported in cities across much of Southern California dropped in 2009 from the previous year, according to preliminary figures released Monday by the FBI.

The statistics show that areas of Orange County and the Inland Empire reported double-digit drops in murders, robberies, forcible rapes and aggravated assaults in 2009 compared with the year before.

In Orange County, Garden Grove reported 541 violent crimes last year, compared with 609 in 2008. That was an 11% drop, according to the Justice Department figures.

Anaheim, meanwhile, logged 1184 violent crimes in 2008 -- 128 fewer than the year before. That was about a 10% decrease.

The crime drops came as the nation was reeling from rising unemployment and a bad economy, factors that are commonly believed to help fuel violence.

"I just think it shows how little sociologists know about crime," said Malcolm Klein, a USC professor emeritus who has researched gang violence and crime trends. "Whatever drives crime is crime itself rather than how we respond to it."

(The Los Angeles Police Department earlier this year reported about a 10% drop in violent crimes in 2009, compared to the previous year.)

In Fullerton, the number of violent crimes rose 28% -- from 410 in 2008 to 526 last year.  The increase was driven, in part, by a rise in the reported number of aggravated assaults -- 227 in 2008 compared to 291 last year, according to the data.

"We do have a lot of assaults in town because we have a lot of bars," said Sgt.  Andrew Goodrich, a Fullerton Police Department spokesman.

During the last several years, Goodrich said, the city's violent crime rate has been relatively stable, which indicates that the 2009 figures may be an anomaly. "It definitely appears to be a blip," he said.

Ventura recorded a 7% in violent crimes last year compared to the year before. During the same period, Riverside showed a 20% decrease and Ontario reported a 17% drop, according to the data.

--Robert J. Lopez