The decade's most triggering comedy
Crime may be a persistent issue across California, but residents in one city are enjoying a dip in criminal activity across multiple categories, and the police chief says he has an answer for why.
Fresno has seen its crime rate drop dramatically this year. Murders dropped 44% from 34 to 19 murders for January 1 to July 11 this year compared to the same period last year, according to Fresno police data.
Shootings are down 11%, rapes are down nearly 20%, robberies are down nearly 11%, commercial burglaries are down nearly 46%, residential burglaries are down 29%, and vehicle thefts are down nearly 26%, according to police.
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama told Tad Weber of The Fresno Bee that the reason for the crime drop is simple: staffing.
The city has a record number of police officers in the field this year: The police department is currently authorized by the city council to have 900 officers, and 860 of those positions were filled as of July 7, according to the police chief.
“There are a lot of misconceptions going around the country saying more cops does not make a safer city,” Balderrama told the Bee. “That is not true. Since we have added, our crime rate has been significantly reduced. We can focus on certain violent groups, do more outreach, be on more beats. More people call us and give us information we can use to solve crimes.”
Balderrama said that when he took over as police chief in January, 2021, only 632 cops were on the force out of the 838 budgeted positions. On top of that, more than 100 officers were out because of illness during the COVID pandemic, the chief said.
“We were running the city with 530 cops,” Balderrama said.
California as a whole has dealt with rampant crime in recent years.
Violent crime is up 6.1% since 2021, property crime is up 6.2%, and robberies are up 10.2%, although murders have dropped slightly, according to Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta’s 2022 crime report.
Other California cities also struggle with rising homelessness and open air drug use, which frequently comes with more crime.
In San Francisco, for example, overall crime is slightly down this year, but certain types of violent crime are up, according to police data.
Murders in San Francisco are up 10% to 22 murders so far. Robberies are up 15% to 1,150 robberies so far. Car thefts are up 5% to 2,889 thefts.
Meanwhile San Francisco’s homelessness and drug crises are still raging, although overdose deaths have dropped from their all-time high in 2020 during the thick of the pandemic.
In 2022, San Francisco saw 620 fatal drug overdoses, down from 640 overdose deaths in 2021. In 2020, overdose deaths spiked to 725.
Homelessness in San Francisco has only gotten worse since before the pandemic. About 38,000 people are homeless in the Bay Area on a given night, up 35% since 2019.
In Los Angeles, most types of crimes are down except theft, which is up nearly 15% since last year, according to police data.
However, homeless crisis in Los Angeles is up 10% in Los Angeles, according to the 2023 greater Los Angeles homeless count results.
In many California cities, violent crime spiked during the pandemic before starting to dip again.