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Ventura County

Crime in Oxnard Drops Again in 2001

Report: Violence and theft take sharp declines. City has become one of the safest for its size in the nation.

January 24, 2002|DARYL KELLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Crime in Oxnard continued a decade of steep decline last year due to sharp drops in violence and theft, pushing the city's crime rate so low it ranks as one of the nation's safest communities for its size.

Oxnard saw serious offenses drop 7% in 2001 from the year before. That translates to a 47% decline since 1992, including a 50% reduction in felony violent crimes.

"Certainly the homicides and robberies are ones we keep track of very carefully," Police Chief Art Lopez said. "We're particularly happy with that."

Homicides in the city dropped from nine to six last year, rapes from 60 to 38 and felony assaults from 422 to 374. Lopez said the decline represents progress in a campaign to secure Oxnard's streets and to establish the blue-collar community as exceptionally safe.

Even before last year's reductions, Oxnard ranked fifth safest of 43 U.S. cities with populations between 150,000 and 200,000, according to a Police Department analysis.

The city's rate of crime per 1,000 residents now stands at less than 30 compared with 67 in 1992, when Oxnard's crime peaked. That is far below the state and national crime rates.

More impressive, Oxnard's crime rate is now about the same as Thousand Oaks' was in 1992, when the affluent east county community was the nation's safest city with at least 100,000 residents. Thousand Oaks' crime rate is also off sharply, as is Ventura County's as a whole.

"So we're safer than Thousand Oaks was in 1992," Lopez said. "We like that comparison."

Yet, the comparison highlights a telling point in statistics that cities report to the FBI each year: One murder is counted the same as one theft.

A truer comparison can come by comparing crimes by category. And Oxnard, despite cutting its violent crime in half over the decade, still had 811 incidents of serious violence last year, while Thousand Oaks had 396 in 1992.

One category of violence increased in Oxnard last year, as robberies went from 375 in 2000 to 393. Police analysts attributed much of that jump to a handful of thugs, several of whom are either dead or in custody.

Homeless ex-felon Larry Brown, 27, was believed responsible for at least six robberies, allegedly holding up doughnut shops repeatedly in June and July before he was shot dead following a police stakeout. Brown was one of five people killed by Oxnard police last year. Those five homicides are not counted by the FBI in Oxnard's total for the year.

Robbery prevention is targeted for extra attention by his department this year, Lopez said.

One new program aims at helping farm workers quickly get proper legal identification, so they can open bank accounts and not carry wads of money after cashing their paychecks.

"They get paid and they go off into the downtown or Colonia and they become targets of young thugs," Lopez said.

In addition, a violent crime task force established in 1999 has begun to see success with a sharp reduction in assaults, Lopez said.

"We're having the opportunity to get involved in very exhaustive investigations of gang members we think are involved in these types of crimes," Lopez said.

Police are also advising shopkeepers of things to do to keep from being robbed, such as removing advertisements from windows so passers-by can see when a crime is being committed inside, he said.

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