And in Port Hueneme, where total crime dropped 18%, Chief Stephen Campbell said 1999 was a very good year, despite a spate of sexual assaults at one apartment complex that increased the number of rapes citywide from four to 13.
"I can't take credit for it being down, but it's a good sign," he said. "You really like to take credit, but it jumps back up and then you have to take credit for that too."
In Thousand Oaks, offenses fell by 225 in 1999, reducing the city's crime rate to just 15.7 crimes per 1,000 residents. That could help Thousand Oaks retain its ranking as the second safest city of 100,000 in the nation, after Simi Valley.
"It's really remarkable," said Brooks, whose agency functions as the city police department. "We just see our number of volunteers there going up and our community policing program increasing."
He said deputies have been extremely effective in Thousand Oaks by targeting neighborhoods with higher crime rates. "It seems that if we focus our resources that way, we make a much bigger difference."
Yet, east county bragging rights still belong to Simi Valley, where a 7.4% drop in offenses produced a crime rate of 15.6 per 1,000 residents, just one-tenth of a point better than Thousand Oaks.
While trailing smaller Moorpark overall, Simi Valley also had the lowest violent crime rate in the county--with just 1.1 violent offenses for each 1,000 residents.
Acting Chief Mark Layhew said success comes from an active crime prevention program, strong community support and aggressive county prosecutors.
Years ago, the city never had the kind of formal community involvement it has today, he said. Nor did it have a gang task force.
"Now, when we have gang-related activity, we deploy our resources to address that particular situation," Layhew said.
The only category in which Simi Valley had a surge in crime was arson, where reports went from 16 to 52.
"We had a rash of dumpster fires and probably two or three suspects," he said. One suspect, who suffers from mental illness, was arrested after allegedly igniting bushes, boat covers and cardboard boxes under motor homes, he said.
Oxnard, the county's largest and historically most crime-prone city, had a 7.4% drop in crime, bringing its crime rate to 37.4 offenses per 1,000 residents, compared to a rate of 68.3 in 1992. Significantly, the city's violent crime has fallen as fast as crime overall.
"That's what we're really the proudest of," Chief Art Lopez said. "We've got only four murders and for a city the size of Oxnard, with 160,000 people, that's phenomenal."
Lopez, a deputy chief of police in Los Angeles until 16 months ago, credits two special units--a gang squad and a federal-local violent crime task force--with holding violent crime at bay.
But he said more than 1,000 members of citizen patrols and active Neighborhood Watch groups are most responsible for Oxnard's progress.
"We have a great relationship with our community," he said.