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Ventura County

Area Crime Rate Lowest in West

November 03, 2002|Holly J. Wolcott | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County remained the most crime-free urban area in the West last year, and a falling crime rate made it the sixth safest metropolitan region in the nation, new FBI data show.

It was the ninth consecutive year that the affluent coastal county has had the lowest crime rate in the 13 Western states for an area with at least 50,000 residents.

No urban area west of Pennsylvania had a lower rate of major criminal offenses last year, according to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Reports.

"A consistent feature of our ranking is that the community is very supportive of public safety and interested in a wholesome environment," said Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks.

About 1,500 volunteers assist the Sheriff's Department, Brooks said. They handle everything from religious, educational and vocational training in jails, to search and rescue missions and citizen patrols.

Even as crime ticked up in the state and nation last year, total offenses reported in Ventura County dropped by 486, or 2.8%, compared with the previous year. Violent offenses fell slightly.

After 10 straight years of decline, crime in Ventura County has dropped by nearly half.

The crime rate in the steadily growing county of 780,000 residents fell from 22.9 crimes per 1,000 residents in 2000 to 22.1 last year.

That compares with a U.S. crime rate of 41.6 and a rate of 39.0 for all of California. After steep increases in reported crime, Los Angeles and Orange counties had rates of 40.3 and 27.5, respectively.

Urban policy expert Joel Kotkin said Ventura County crime continues to drop because, in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, residents move to its smaller suburban cities for safety.

"Clearly, these communities are more focused on law enforcement than, let's say, Los Angeles," said Kotkin, a senior fellow at Pepperdine University's Davenport Institute for Public Policy and the Milken Institute. "There's a high sensitivity to the issue."

Barry Glassner, a professor of sociology at USC and author of "The Culture of Fear," said Ventura County's low crime rate reflects its affluence and family-oriented communities.

"Where there is relative stability of income and family composition, crime tends to be pretty stable and pretty low," he said. "Crime goes up where there are economic problems or hardships or where, for one reason or another, there is a lot of family disruption."

The new FBI analysis, released last week, reflects crimes reported by 17,000 local police agencies to the FBI in seven categories--murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and auto theft.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Safest Metro Areas

Lowest Crime Metropolitan Areas in U.S.

(Crimes per 1,000 residents)

1. Danbury, CT........................................16.65

2. Johnstown, PA....................................18.92

3. Pittsfield, MA......................................21.40

4. Portsmouth-Rochester, NH-ME...........22.03

5. Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ..........22.16

6. Ventura County, CA..........................22.19

7. Glen Falls, NY.....................................22.36

8. Dutchess County, NY................................22.58

9. Wausau, WI.........................................23.15

10. State College, PA.................................23.62

Source: Ranking based on FBI data.

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