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Commentary: Statistics tell the truth about Costa Mesa crime rate

March 15, 2014|By Colin McCarthy

There's been a lot in the news lately about how morale problems at the Costa Mesa Police Department are causing officers to leave thus the city is becoming unsafe.

However, the statistics tell a different story.

Just this week the FBI released its preliminary crime statistics for major cities from January to June 2013. Not surprisingly, Costa Mesa's crime rate is as at an historic low.

Violent crime is down 13% from the first half of 2012, assaults are down 46%. The category my family and I always focus on, burglaries, is down 30%.

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Some say that crime is down across the board and we should not be surprised to see these figures. Yet some of our neighbors are not fairing so well. In Huntington Beach, violent crime was up for the first half of 2012 compared with the first half of 2013. In Santa Ana, murders were up during the same period. We don't have any statistics for murders in Costa Mesa because, thankfully, we didn't have a murder in the first halves of 2012 or 2013.

If you compare the preliminary crime statistics for Costa Mesa in 2013 and 2006, you will see an interesting comparison. All categories of crime are lower today than they were in 2006.

But why is 2006 so important? That was the year that our Police Department was bursting at the seams with officers. We even had our own helicopter program. Yet 2006 was also the year that we had six murders in our city, including several gang homicides. With so many officers on the street and our own helicopter in the air, why were there so many murders?  

The crime statistics illustrate an important point about public safety. More officers doesn't always translate into a safer city.

So why has Costa Mesa become such a safe city over the past few years? In my opinion, there are several reasons.

First, we have a police chief who is committed to making public safety the top priority. As a Costa Mesa resident, Chief Tom Gazsi understands well the impact that crime has on our city. He is heavily invested in the cause.

We now have a shared helicopter program that actually provides air support. Our old model was a disaster. It was so cost prohibitive that we could never afford to have the helicopter in the air. Now that we share resources with Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, our residents are getting increased flight time and a far better crime deterrent. [Newport Beach and Costa Mesa used to share a program called Air Borne Law Enforcement, or ABLE.]

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