By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent
Laguna Beach police credit good staffing levels and stepped-up patrols of city beaches for bringing the city’s crime rates to the lowest on record in 2018.
Property crimes, including burglary, larceny, auto theft, and arson, went down 19 percent compared to 2017 and down 31 percent from 2016. Violent crimes, which include murder, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assaults, held steady at 190 incidents in 2018 compared to the prior year.
“The overall decrease in crime is directly related to good staffing levels and the layered services of the Beach Patrol Officers,” Police Chief Laura Farinella said. “It is the outstanding work of the men and women of the Laguna Beach Police Department who are to be commended for their diligent efforts in identifying crime and nuisance issues, and working to address them through creative strategies and community engagement.”
In July 2018, the Police Department started hosting an information booth at Main Beach staffed by Laguna Beach police officers on weekends. Officers stationed at the booth were able to help the public with concerns about lost children, thefts, fights, public intoxication, and smoking. Reviews of this service were so positive, that the City Council decided last December to continue funding the initiative through June.
Laguna Beach police will continue to man the canopy each weekend, with the exception of those weekends anticipated to see fewer beach visitors because of rain.
Officers have also been patrolling the beach with greater frequency to keep an eye out for nuisances like drug use, smoking, and drunks who degrade the public’s enjoyment of the ocean.
Burglaries were down 53 percent in 2018, largely because Laguna Beach police were able to identify and arrest a few teams of burglars committing crimes in the city. The residential burglaries that did occur last year were attributed to unlocked doors and open garages. To prevent future incidents, sergeants and patrol officers took the initiative to educate residents about the importance of locking up their homes.
Laguna Beach police also believe they brought down thefts at the beach and shoplifting from retails stores also went down by nearly 12 percent by having their beach patrol officers be visible to prospective thieves.
Despite the overall drop in crime, there were three reported arsons in 2018 compared to a single incident the prior year. There was also a six percent increase in simple assaults in 2018, rising to 158 from 149 incidents.
During the City Council campaign last year, candidates often attributed a perceived uptick in crime to Laguna Beach’s homeless population. Farinella has said in the past that the incorrect perception of an increase in crime might be because people are more aware of incidents posted on Facebook and NextDoor.