Serious crimes increase in SB County from 2015 to 2016

Staff report

Violent crimes and property crimes increased in Santa Barbara County from 2015 to 2016, according to the latest statistics released by the county Sheriff’s Department.

Homicides doubled, from 2 to 4; rapes increased by 40 percent, from 40 to 56; and thefts from vehicles increased by 15 percent.

The statistics apply to all of the unincorporated areas served by the department as well the cities of Buellton, Solvang, Goleta and Carpinteria, which receive police services from the Sheriff’s Department by contract.

The numbers are broken down by “Part 1” crimes, which can be either violent or property-related but are generally the most serious offenses, and “Part 2” crimes.

Part 1 crimes increased overall by 2 percent, with 2,882 reported in 2016 compared to 2,818 in 2015. Broken down further, Part 1 crime decreased by 2 percent in the unincorporated areas but rose in the contract cities — Buellton (48 percent increase), Carpinteria (19 percent), Goleta (5 percent) and Solvang (1 percent).

The increase in all of the jurisdictions can partly be contributed to the increase in the number of thefts from automobiles, the Sheriff’s Department said.  Countywide, including the contract cities, thefts from automobiles increased by 15 percent.

Part 1 violent crimes involve force or threat of force — homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.  The number reported rose to 348 in 2016 from 337 in 2015, including four homicides in 2016 after two in 2015.

Forcible rape reports rose to 56 in 2016 from 40 in 2015, including a nearly 80 percent increase in Isla Vista, from 13 in 2015 to 23 in 2016.

“The Sheriff’s Office is aware of this concerning increase and is working with Isla Vista stakeholders, specifically the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center and the Isla Vista Safe Committee, on a sexual assault awareness and risk reduction campaign,” according to a department spokesman.

Part 1 Property Crimes are offenses without a threat or force used against the victim — burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft.  The number of these crimes increased to 2,534 cases in 2016 from 2,481 in 2015.

While burglaries were down 8 percent, the increase is partly attributed to an increase in reported larceny-thefts, which increased by 7 percent.  The greatest increase was in thefts reported from automobiles and buildings, but reports of bicycle thefts and pickpocketing also increased.

Arson, on the other hand, decreased by 46 percent while motor vehicle theft decreased by 5 percent.

While the data shows an increase in Part 1 Crimes, Part 2 Crimes decreased 11 percent countywide.

Part 2 Crimes include forgery, fraud, embezzlement, possession of stolen property, weapons violations, simple assaults, vandalism, prostitution, offenses against family or children, and sex offenses.

Drug- and alcohol-related incidents, as well as vagrancy, curfew violations, and loitering, are also included in Part 2 Crimes.

In 2016, 9,695 Part 2 crimes were reported compared to 10,858 in 2015. The biggest decreases were in relation to curfew and loitering, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, embezzlement and fraud.

Even though the overall Part 2 Crime rate was down, there was an increase in the number of violations involving drugs, weapons and prostitution.

Solvang saw a 7 increase in Part 2 crimes, largely due to an increase in the number of disorderly conduct, forgery/counterfeiting and liquor law violations. Other jurisdictions had decreases — unincorporated areas (13 percent decrease), Carpinteria (11 percent decrease), Buellton (4 percent decrease), and Goleta (3 percent decrease).