San Diego is one of the safest regions in the U.S. according to a report released by the county in April. Data from 2017 reflects the fourth-lowest violent crime rate since 1980 and the lowest property crime rate ever. This report was released on the heels of a brand new neighborhood policing division formed in March.
I surveyed city council offices, planning group members, social media, and individual residents about what they hope from the new division.
Overwhelmingly, transients were mentioned most often. Theft, reckless driving, vandalism/graffiti, and illegal dumping/litter came up next most often.
A Tierrasanta resident said reckless driving has been the number-one complaint; cars and motorcycles race down Tierrasanta Boulevard and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard late at night.
According to Scott Wahl, captain of the new policing division, concerns will be addressed neighborhood-by-neighborhood. Wahl said since his officers won't be answering radio calls, it will allow more flexibility in addressing chronic concerns. The entire division has the option of focusing on one issue or one neighborhood on any given day.
One Pacific Beach resident said the new division is paying dividends with the quick removal and clean-up of a homeless encampment along Rose Creek (Mission Bay) in May.
A decrease of 19-percent in the city's homeless population was reported in May from the count done in January. The census tract (65) for the Midway District (Point Loma) counted zero homeless people. To this, one Midway resident said, "I count at least thirty on my way to get coffee every morning."
An Allied Gardens resident called transients "more prominent than ever," while a North Park resident lamented the messes they leave behind making it embarrassing to invite guests to her neighborhood. San Ysidro residents are concerned with transient-related loitering and littering, while Point Loma residents are more concerned about aggressive transients. Northwestern neighborhoods (includes Carmel Valley) expressed no transient-related concerns. A Mira Mesa resident had some, but acknowledged they don't have it as bad as other areas.
Even though transient-related concerns are high, police data from mid-May to mid-August 2017 show transients involved in less than four percent of incidents (Downtown and Point Loma had the most). Disturbing the peace was the top transient-related incident.
A homeless man took residence under my neighbor's kitchen window in April. He told me "the canyon is full." I witnessed him refusing help from the homeless outreach team. The officer told me that 98 percent refuse help.
Wahl said that number is closer to 89 percent. "This year, with just below 3,000 [homeless] people contacted, about seven percent have accepted placement."
Theft was the second most mentioned concern. According to Crimemapping (mid-April to mid-May), Downtown had about 28 percent of all reported thefts. Vehicle break-ins were the most frequent form of theft city-wide.
Police data showed more than 18,000 incidents of theft; downtown, City Heights, and La Jolla have the highest numbers. Burglary was the most common theft reported; La Jolla has the most.
Reckless driving was the third most mentioned concern. City Heights, Pacific Beach, and downtown had the highest number of incidents per police data. The neighborhoods that logged the most traffic stops were downtown, City Heights, and Encanto. One March traffic stop resulted in the arrest of someone with a warrant and confiscation of two AR-15 short barrel rifles with serial numbers missing.
Vandalism and graffiti were the fourth most mentioned concerns. Police data from last summer logged near 900 incidents; City Heights, downtown, and Encanto have the most.
Even though illegal dumping and litter wrapped up the list of top five concerns, only 26 incidents were logged in police data last summer.
City-wide, police data showed theft and disturbing the peace as the most reported incidents (more than 18,000 each). Downtown and City Heights were the neighborhoods with the most incidents on both counts.
Lesser reported incidents included: illegal parking (5083), assaults/guns (4782), drug/alcohol-related incidents (2051), indecent exposure (366), animal-related issues (302), arson (86), and prostitution (46).