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Ventura County

FBI Names County Safest in the West

Crime: Region holds onto the ranking for the ninth year. Sheriff and district attorney credit professionalism of law enforcement agencies.

November 22, 2001|STEVE CHAWKINS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County remained the safest metropolitan area in the West in 2000--the ninth consecutive year it has attained that standing, according to crime figures compiled by the FBI.

In a joint news release, Sheriff Bob Brooks and Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury attributed the statistical achievement to the professionalism of local law enforcement agencies.

Brooks also pointed to "the willingness of hundreds of residents to get involved and take ownership of their safety, as demonstrated by their willingness to track down the murderer of Megan Barroso."

The body of Barroso, a Moorpark College student, was found after a massive search aided by volunteers. A Simi Valley handyman has admitted to the shooting but has yet to be tried for first-degree murder.

The county's crime rate for 2000 was about 44% lower than the U.S. crime rate, the statistics show.

Since 1986, crime has dropped substantially across the country.

The rate of decline in Ventura County was 46%--just a little more than California's decrease of 44%, according to the figures. The drop in the nation as a whole was about 33%.

The county's figures were not unexpected.

For years, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks have swapped bragging rights as the nation's safest cities with populations greater than 100,000.

The statistics gauge the frequency of such major crimes as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle thefts and arson.

Ventura County's continuing high marks reflect "a long-term commitment by the citizens of Ventura County, both individual and corporate," Bradbury said.

"This has been reflected in financial support to the agencies of the criminal justice system and direct personal support through many community-based organizations."

At times, the extent of that support has prompted controversy.

Sheriff's deputies are negotiating for pension benefits that could net them more as retirees than they earned during most of their working years.

And, from time to time, officials have threatened to modify a sales tax that voters approved in 1994 for the exclusive benefit of the county's public safety agencies.

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