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Violence Up in Smaller County Areas : Crime: But 10.4% jump in unincorporated regions is about half the countywide average. Assaults account for biggest rise.

March 12, 1994|JULIE FIELDS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Violent crime in the unincorporated areas of Ventura County rose 10.4% in 1993 over the previous year, but the overall crime rate was about half the county average, according to figures released Friday by the Sheriff's Department.

The biggest increase occurred in aggravated assaults, which jumped nearly 23% from 171 in 1992 to 210 in 1993. The rise in assaults drove up the overall number of violent crimes, though homicides, rapes and robberies all fell slightly during the same period.

"We're concerned about the continued rise in violent crime," Undersheriff Richard Bryce said. "But at least in the unincorporated area, at this time, it's confined to aggravated assaults."

Roughly 93,000 people live in small, unincorporated communities spread throughout the county. In the western half of Ventura County, the areas include Oak View, Mira Monte, Casitas Springs, El Rio and Piru. In the east county, Oak Park and Newbury Park account for much of the unincorporated population.

The total number of serious crimes--murders, rapes, felony assaults, burglaries, thefts and arsons--committed in those areas last year rose from 1,880 in 1992 to 2,006 in 1993.

Bryce said he did not know which unincorporated communities were hit the hardest by crime. The numbers have not been analyzed for such small areas, he said.

Overall, the unincorporated areas recorded 21.5 crimes per 1,000 residents, a 5% increase over the 1992 rate. That crime rate compared with a countywide average of 42.6 crimes per 1,000 residents in 1992.

Property crimes in the same communities rose 4% over 1992, with burglaries showing the biggest jumps.

The Sheriff's Department has not yet released 1993 crime statistics for its five contract cities--Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai and Thousand Oaks. Those figures are being reviewed by city officials and are expected to be out March 21.

Statistics already released by Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Paula, Simi Valley and Port Hueneme showed overall decreases in crime. In Santa Paula, however, violent crime surged to its highest level in six years.

Cmdr. Joe Harwell, who is in charge of the sheriff's operations in the Ojai Valley, said he has not noticed any significant crime trends in Oak View, Mira Monte or Casitas Springs.

But Ralph Wright, who manages his family's market in Nyeland Acres, said his neighborhood experienced an increase in violence last year.

"It's assaults and burglaries," he said. "Burglaries are a constant problem."

Wright said he had to fend off four attackers on Jan. 31, 1993, when he stepped outside his home and was attacked by people he believes were gang members.

"My shoulder was dislocated when one of them took my left arm and put it way up behind me," he said.

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