Police budgets across Orange County are down. But so are reported crimes.

Less overall crime was reported in the majority of Orange County’s eight cities with populations of 100,000 or more in 2009, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2009 preliminary uniform crime report. This is true even though the Great Recession has forced these cities to cut budgets and the poor economy was expected to cause a rise in crime.

Oddly, Irvine reported an increase in violent crimes and burglary, but was the only city that didn’t cut its police budget over the past fiscal year. At least part of the reason for this disparity is that Irvine’s crime numbers were historically low in 2008, said Lt. John Hare, an Irvine police department spokesman.

Most departments were like Anaheim’s, which left positions unfilled and reduced the size of its civilian support staff but reported fewer crimes in 2009 than it did in 2008.

What is causing the drop locally and nationally? “I don’t know if anybody has an answer to that question,” said Anaheim police spokesman Sgt. Rick Martinez.

According to a story in the Christian Science Monitor, Martinez is far from alone in searching for the answer.

Criminologists interviewed by the paper listed a number of possible reasons for the national downward trend including the large number of repeat criminals behind bars, better policing techniques like security cameras, increased emphasis by law enforcement on working with communities to reduce crime, and an aging overall population that is less likely to commit crimes.

Martinez and several other police spokesmen echoed some of those reasons, especially the emphasis on improved crime fighting techniques, like tracking crime trends and moving to intercede in a neighborhood if a pattern of rising criminal activity is detected.

In Fullerton the violent crime rate has been reasonably stable for several years, but it went up in 2009. Fullerton Police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Goodrich the spike in 2009 may just be a statistical “blip.”

Crimes were “spread across the city,” he said, but the large number of bars in town didn’t help. “I can’t say it’s all because of the bars,” he said, but “the bars contribute to an overall crime level. People who are drunk do stupid things.”

Correction: Due to editing errors, a previous version of this post inaccurately stated the number of selected cities in Orange County that had an increase in reported crimes in 2009.


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