IRVINE — Local realtor Dale Cheema hasn't had too much trouble selling houses lately, and he's pretty sure he knows why.
On Tuesday, he learned that the June issue of Money magazine had named Irvine the safest large city in the country in terms of violent crime. That designation came after FBI released statistics earlier this month which showed Irvine to be the seventh-safest in the United States with a population over 100,000.
"People want to be in a safe neighborhood and enjoy a better standard of living," said Cheema, president of the Irvine Board of Realtors. "After news of (the FBI ranking) spread, I had a lot of people from the L.A. area coming in who want to raise their kids in a safer area."
The magazine combined population data with the FBI's statistics on violent crimes--including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault--to come up with the rankings, which place Irvine first among 187 cities with populations over 100,000.
The magazine's rankings are based only on violent crimes while the FBI's rankings also included crimes such as robbery, burglary, larceny and auto theft.
"It's an overall plus to the city," said Mayor Michael Ward. "Everyone is pretty happy about it. I think it says an awful lot about Irvine. Crime is the No. 1 concern among people nowadays, and we are dedicated to keeping it a safe community."
Ward and other city officials attributed the city's nationwide reputation for safety to a variety of factors including a highly educated, well-trained police force; urban planning that separates residential enclaves from high-traffic streets; a strong school system and active participation from residents.
"It's a combined effort," Ward said. "It's a great town and everyone has to take part to keep it that way."
Police Chief Charles S. Brobeck said part of the low crime rate in this city of 110,000 residents can be attributed to a strong Neighborhood Watch program that he said reflects a citywide intolerance of criminal activity.
"We make a lot of apprehensions and arrests based on what people report to us," Brobeck said. "It helps a lot. I think the overall attitude among residents is that they're not going to tolerate that kind of thing. There is not a sense of apathy."
The magazine's rankings are based on 1993 statistics, a year in which Irvine had one homicide victim. That was Turtle Rock resident Patricia Lea Pratt, who apparently surprised a burglar in her home.
Pratt's slaying, which has not been solved, was the fourth homicide in the city since 1990, police said.
Ward said the magazine's top ranking will help attract new residents and also help attract more businesses to the 43.6-square-mile, pre-planned city incorporated in 1971.
"Businesses want to locate their office in a safe community," the mayor said. "I also think recognition in a national, respected business magazine will help us keep the businesses that are here."
For Cheema, who said he has sold eight houses in the past month, this latest accolade is a real estate agent's dream come true.
"When I have an open house, I plan to bring the magazine article with me," he said. "I think it will help immensely."