Despite crime rates being lower this year across San Bernardino County, several cities in the High Desert reported higher rates of violent crimes, burglary and larceny than other cities in the county, according to a Sheriff’s Department report.
A Daily Press analysis of 2014 and 2015 crime statistics, obtained from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department 2015 Crime Report, show that certain High Desert cities reported higher rates of Part I crimes than other cities in the county, despite similarities in population size.
Larceny rates have increased across several of the cities included in the report, but High Desert cities often reported a higher rate than other cities with higher populations.
Using 2013 statistics, Victorville had a population of a little over 121,000, while Rancho Cucamonga had a population of just over 174,000. Yet rates of Part I crimes are higher in Victorville, with murders doubling in Victorville in 2015, compared to a 25-percent decrease in Rancho Cucamonga.
While rapes increased in both cities, Victorville had a higher number, with 49 reported in 2015 compared to 36 reported in Rancho Cucamonga. The number of burglaries in Victorville was also much higher compared to Rancho Cucamonga, 1,095 to 851, despite burglaries in Victorville decreasing by 37 percent in 2015.
Rancho Cucamonga did have a higher rate of larceny, with 2,658 reports compared to Victorville's 2,285 reports, and a much higher rate of grand theft auto, despite Victorville showing a higher percentage increase.
Victorville Sheriff’s Station Captain Sam Lucia questioned the comparisons between both cities, and mentioned that Rancho Cucamonga has a higher number of deputies, with 103 compared to Victorville’s 70.
“I’m not sure if it’s a good apples-to-apples comparison,” Lucia said. “The Victorville City Council has heard a consistent message from me regarding the need for more deputies, and they are listening. The Council is hugely supportive of public safety, but the process is always dependent on budget constraints.”
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Rancho Cucamonga’s median household income was $77,061 between 2010 and 2014, while Victorville’s was $47,142. Victorville also had a higher rate of persons in poverty, with 26.3 percent as opposed to Rancho Cucamonga’s relatively low rate of 7.8 percent.
Lucia said that burglary, especially residential burglary, is a “major quality of life issue” and touted the efforts of the station’s detective division in curbing those crimes.
“Working with Crime Analysis, this year we identified three burglary crews, which definitely made an impact,” Lucia said. “These crews were responsible for an inordinate amount of burglaries in the city.”
Sheriff John McMahon told the Daily Press larceny rates have increased across the board in the county due to legislation, in particular Proposition 47, which changed penal codes for crimes such as commercial burglary.
“My whole issue with Prop 47 is there is limited consequences, if any consequences, for offenses,” McMahon said.
He cited examples such as offenses for stolen firearms, which are now misdemeanors if the firearm is worth less than $950, and the possession of date rape drugs, which are also now considered misdemeanors.
“Before it was always a felony and these people were sure to go to jail,” McMahon said. “But now, a lot of these people instead get cited and given court dates, then they won't show up to court.”
The report showed that Victorville's numbers for aggravated assaults, simple assaults, and robberies were much higher than Rancho Cucamonga’s, and several other High Desert cities and areas seemed to follow this trend.
A slight increase in murders was reported in Apple Valley, with a population of 71,396, in contrast to Chino Hills, with a population of 77,596, where no murders were reported in either 2014 or 2015. Chino Hills also had lower rates of rape, aggravated assault, simple assault, robbery, burglary, and larceny compared to Apple Valley, despite the High Desert city’s smaller population. However, like Rancho Cucamonga, Chino Hills has a higher median household income and a lower poverty rate than Apple Valley.
Higher rates were also seen in Adelanto compared to the Twin Peaks Station, which covers the Crestline and Lake Arrowhead, among other areas, despite the latter serving several communities and an almost identical overall population. While larceny was up at the Twin Peaks station, aggravated assault was much higher in Adelanto, with 150 reports compared to 92 at the Twin Peaks Station for 2015.
Simple assault and robbery rates also followed the same trend, with Adelanto reporting a 38-percent increase in robbery, compared to the Twin Peaks station’s 30-percent decrease.
The increase in rates in the High Desert may be explained by a staggering difference in the distance High Desert stations deputies cover compared to other stations in the county.
Victorville's station covers 77 square miles compared to Rancho Cucamonga’s 44 square miles, according to the Sheriff’s report. Apple Valley’s coverage area also spans 77 square miles in contrast to Chino Hills’ 45 square miles, despite the latter’s higher population.
McMahon acknowledged that certain High Desert areas were in need of more deputies, in particular the Victor Valley Sheriff's Station, which covers more than 1,400 square miles.
“We’ve added eight additional deputies to that station, and will be adding a deputy that deals with juvenile-related issues,” McMahon said.
In addition, McMahon also touted the success of the Department’s Gang Task Force, which was repurposed with deputies from narcotics teams due to changes in drug offense laws.
“They have been making a big impact,” McMahon said. “We will also be running the Desert Guardian Operation again starting in July. More patrol cars running around have a tendency to lower crime.”
The sweep operation targets various crimes in the High Desert. A Desert Guardian operation conducted last summer resulted in 66 arrests and the seizure of two knives, one-quarter of an ounce of methamphetamine and an ounce of marijuana, according to a previous Sheriff’s report.
Paola Baker may be reached at 760-955-5332 or PBaker@VVDailyPress.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DP_PaolaBaker.