OCEANSIDE — Two Marine military policemen assigned here with fanfare two years ago to help local police handle disorderly enlisted personnel have returned to Camp Pendleton following a drop in the city's crime rate.
And, according to statistics released by the Marine Corps Tuesday, crime on the sprawling base north of Oceanside is down as well, prompting both military and police officials to speculate that higher recruiting standards have filled the ranks with better-behaved men and women.
"We're real pleased, and while this isn't based on any scientific data, we think the drop in crime on the base and off is a result of the higher quality Marine we're getting," said Capt. Steve Little, a spokesman for Camp Pendleton.
Oceanside Police Chief Larry Marshall echoed Little's praise of the "new Marine." "We're seeing a much higher quality Marine on the streets these days."
The MPs were assigned to the Oceanside Police Department's downtown substation in August, 1983, after months of negotiations between the city and Camp Pendleton officials. City leaders were particularly concerned about criminal activity in the North Hill Street area, a strip of bars, theaters and fast-food restaurants.
While base officials initially were hesitant about assigning the MPs because of questions about the liability of military police in civilian settings, they finally agreed to place them downtown on military paydays and on Fridays and Saturdays.
While calling the MPs "a very effective force in the downtown," Marshall said the drop in crime "has, at least for now, reduced the necessity for their presence."
Violent crime in the downtown area has dropped by 36% in the last two years, while violent crime in the entire city is down by 11%, Marshall said.
He attributed the decrease in part to the city's redevelopment efforts, which have rid the city of many bars and other businesses that cater to servicemen.
Also, "I've got to credit the higher recruitment standards and the good drug and alcohol abuse programs they're offering on base now," Marshall said. He added that tougher standards have allowed the Corps to "rid itself of those who reflect poorly on it and cause us problems downtown."
Little agreed, saying those trends have contributed to an equally impressive drop in crime on the base.
Robberies on the base dropped 55% last year from 1983's total, and rapes were down 27% for the same period. There were also fewer homicides (down from three to one), aggravated assaults and burglaries in 1984, Little said.
"We're proud of the 61% decrease in narcotic and drug law violations," he said.
In addition, the number of Marines involved in crime off base in Oceanside last year was 22% lower than in 1983, Little said.