Residents of Hesperia are less likely than residents of Victorville or Los Angeles to be victims of crime, according to FBI statistics.
The ranking -- an aggregate score combining statistics involving murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft -- was based on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's "Crime in the United States 2007" report and was published in City Crime Rankings 2008-2009 from CQ Press.
The book ranks American cities by their overall crime score, from 1 through 385.
"For our cities list, we've included all cities of population of 75,000 or greater that have reported crimes in a standard way to the FBI," said Ben Krasney, spokesman for CQ Press. Reporting the data to the FBI properly is important: Chicago and other Illinois cities are absent from the list because they do not use a standardized way of reporting rape statistics.
According to the book, the most dangerous city in America, when it comes to serious crime, is New Orleans, which received a 441.40 aggregate score. At the other end of the scale, the safest city in America is Ramapo, New York, with a score of negative 89.18.
Hesperia is ranked 232 out of 385 cities, with a score of negative 4.58. Los Angeles comes in at number 158, with a score of 43.27. And Victorville beats out Los Angeles in term of danger, with a 152 ranking and a score of 46.89.
Elsewhere in San Bernardino County, the city of San Bernardino was ranked one of the nation's most dangerous cities, coming in at number 36, with a score of 153.75. Riverside came in at number 190, with a score of 21.78. Fontana was ranked 217, with a score of 6.13. And Rancho Cucamonga was ranked as one of the nation's safest cities, coming in at number 336 and a score of negative 49.74.
The second-safest city in America is also in Southern California: Mission Viejo was ranked 384 with a score of negative 82.96.
Closer to home, the differences between the Victor Valley's two largest communities, Hesperia and Victorville, are striking, despite large similarities in demographics and economic conditions.
Nationwide, 1.6 murders occur annually per 100,000 residents. In Hesperia, 1.7 murders occur. In Victorville, it's 8.6 murders.
Across America, 30 rapes occur annually per 100,000 residents. In Hesperia, it's 31.1 rapes. In the lone case where Victorville has less crime than Hesperia, there are 28.6 incidents.
An average of 147.6 robberies occur per 100,00 residents nationwide. In Hesperia, there are only 115.3 robberies. In Victorville, it's 251.7.
An average of 283.8 assaults occur per 100,000 residents nationwide. Hesperians suffer 219 per 100,000 residents. In Victorville, it's 340.4 assaults.
Burglaries are where Victorville does the worst: There are 722.5 burglaries per 100,000 residents nationwide, only 596 per 100,000 residents in Hesperia but 1,221.5 burglaries per 100,000 Victorville residents.
Auto theft is a serious problem in both cities: There are 363.3 auto thefts per 100,000 residents nationwide, 463.4 in Hesperia and 628.4 in Victorville.
"What I'd like to think is that, with the city adding new positions over the last couple of years, deputy positions, we've been able to put more deputies on the streets and allow them to have more active patrol time," said Lt. Glenn Gwaltney, who works out of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department's Hesperia station. "And there's the fact that we constantly encourage our folks to go out there and be aggressive. Go out there and give the citizens of Hesperia of what they're paying for."
"Well, we've got a great police captain" in Captain Lance Clark, said Mayor Thuston "Smitty" Smith. "He can do really good with the resources with he's given. "And [former Hesperia station captain Joe] Cusimano before him."
Victorville also has more deputies per 100,000 residents, Smith said, something the city council wants to change.
"I'd love to get more deputies, but the budget's just not there," he said.
And while Victorville has a lot of similarities to Hesperia, Gwaltney said geographical differences might also play a role, particularly when it comes to theft.
"More of Victorville borders freeway access, it makes a lot more sense," he said. "That's one of the things the criminal element looks for: easy-in, easy-out."
Smith also said there's differences in the residents.
"I think there's more involvement in the community in Hesperia. We're out and about more, we check on our neighbors," he said. "We have a lot of commuters, too, but we have a lot of seniors, too ... who keep an eye on the neighborhood."
City Crime Rankings 2008-2009 is available from CQ Press and from online retailers.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.