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Crime steady in Oxnard, down in Simi

February 15, 2007|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Although major crime was up 6% throughout most of Ventura County last year, violent and property crimes in Oxnard, the county's largest city, went mostly unchanged, officials said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Simi Valley, often ranked among the safest cities in the nation, experienced a 15% hike in violent crime even as its overall crime rate dropped 9%, according to newly released statistics.

Homicides in Oxnard dropped from 19 to 13 last year and rapes from 47 to 34. But robberies increased more than 8%, from 386 to 418, and aggravated assaults were unchanged at 377. Overall violent crime rose by 1.6% to 842 incidents.

Auto thefts in Oxnard dropped from 762 to 614, a nearly 20% decline, but larceny rose by 5%, from 2,681 to 2,816. Five additional burglaries brought that category's total to 946. Overall, crime in the city increased 0.01%.

"Even if it's only one-tenth of one percent, I'll take it," said Oxnard Police Chief John Crombach, who has led the department of 240 sworn officers for two years.

When measured on a per capita basis, Oxnard's crime rate actually dropped slightly, about 0.8% because the city's population increased from 188,300 to 189,990 last year, officials said.

Simi Valley also predicted its per capita crime rate would fall, estimating it about 38% lower than it was 20 years ago.

Oxnard officials credit a program emphasizing neighborhood policing and the establishment of gang injunctions in two areas of the city with helping to stem crime.

"It's really satisfying to know a multitude of strategies to make public safety and crime reduction a top priority are really paying off," Mayor Tom Holden said.

In 2005, Oxnard added $1.2 million to the Police Department's budget, hiring eight employees to focus on stemming crime, relieving traffic and addressing other quality-of-life issues, such as noisy neighbors and roaming pets. Along with Police Department personnel, Holden credited the involvement of the community with keeping crime in check.

"Reducing these problems is not something the police can do to a city, but something a community has to do for itself," Holden said.

He added that Oxnard is spending $1.5 million this year to assist after-school programs and community outreach efforts with keeping youngsters away from gangs.

"As a mayor and a father of three young boys, there is nothing more important" than public safety, Holden said. "We're looking to leverage our money to work with almost any program that's trying to help our kids."

Simi Valley reported three homicides last year, compared with none in 2005. Rapes increased from 17 to 21, and robberies from 47 to 58. Eight additional aggravated assaults brought that category's total to 116.

Property crime in Simi Valley, however, was down across the board as burglaries dropped from 583 to 424, larceny from 1,515 to 1,475 and auto theft from 217 to 159. Combined, all major crimes were down about 9%.

"We are pleased that our crime rate has gradually dropped over the past 20 years," said Sgt. David Livingstone, a Police Department spokesman. The reduction reflects the partnerships among the community, city officials and police, he added.

Earlier this week, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department reported a 6% increase in serious crimes in the unincorporated areas and five cities it patrols: Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai and Thousand Oaks. Most of the increase was attributed to a surge in assaults and residential burglaries.

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greg.griggs@latimes.com

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