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Simi Valley crime report mixed

Violent offenses fall, but a big jump in vehicle thefts concerns city leaders. Too often, owners are leaving keys in the car, they say.

August 18, 2007|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Simi Valley saw a significant drop in violent crime during the first half of the year, but a spike in grand theft and auto theft caused a more than 17% increase in serious crimes, according to a new report.

One homicide and nine sexual assaults -- the same as last year -- were reported, while aggravated assaults dropped from 55 to 43, a nearly 22% decline. Burglaries dropped from 221 to 205, and arson cases fell from 13 to 3.

But property crimes jumped dramatically. Larceny thefts increased from 679 to 879, up 29.5%, while auto thefts jumped from 78 to 106, a nearly 36% increase. In total, there were 202 additional property crimes this year compared to the same period last year.

Overall, so-called Part I crimes in the east Ventura County city, often ranked among the safest large cities in the country, jumped from 1,086 to 1,278, a 17.7% increase.

"Certainly we're pleased that aggravated or violent assault crimes are down," said Police Chief Mike Lewis. "But we are concerned about the dramatic rise in the stealing of autos, compared to 2006."

In four out of 10 vehicle thefts, Lewis said owners had left the keys inside.

"These are pure and simply opportunistic crimes. I feel there's an overconfidence on the part of residents that we're such a safe city. We're too complacent," Lewis said.

In addition, the chief said there have been several instances of Los Angeles County "theft gangs" prowling for unlocked vehicles in Simi Valley.

Mayor Paul Miller said the city's 124,000 residents shouldn't let their guard down.

"This is a safer city than most, but crime still happens here," Miller said. "Crime is cyclical; it's sort of like the stock market: Sometimes it's up, sometimes it's down."

Miller, the city's former police chief, said the department is always urging people to lock their vehicles.

"It amazes me that people still leave their keys in the car," he said. "Don't make it easy for them. If they're going to commit a crime, make them work for it."

"You have to wonder about a person's priorities when they've got $500 worth of junk in their garage but leave a $60,000 car parked on the street overnight. It just doesn't make sense," he said.

Earlier this month, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department released its crime statistics for the first half of the year. Authorities credited a new gang unit with a 21% decline in violent crime in the unincorporated areas and five cities patrolled by the department.

Violent crime was down 42% in Moorpark, 27% in Ojai, 21% in Camarillo and 20% in Thousand Oaks. The only exception was Fillmore, which reported a 4% increase in violent crime and accounted for the only reported homicide.

Last week, Oxnard reported an 8% increase in property crime but an overall 12.2% drop in all Part 1 crimes, while Ventura experienced more robberies, burglaries and thefts, pushing its violent crimes up more than 9% and its overall major crime rate up nearly 5%.

--

greg.griggs@latimes.com

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