Is San Diego safest big city? Or having a police crisis?

This good news got prominent play in California’s second-largest city this weekend:

For the fourth year running, San Diego had the lowest murder rate among the country’s ten largest cities.

The department investigated 32 homicides, down from 39, giving San Diego, the eighth largest city in the nation, a murder rate of 2.4 killings per 100,000 residents, according to data compiled by U-T San Diego.

By comparison, Phoenix, which has a slightly larger population than San Diego, had a murder rate of 7.7 per 100,000, while San Antonio, another city of similar size, had a rate of 7.3. Philadelphia had the highest rate of the nation’s ten top cities, with 16 killings for every 100,000 residents.

faulconer.rncBut this good news has an unusual subtext: If San Diego is so safe, why is there bipartisan agreement that more must be done to widely boost compensation for current San Diego police officers and to make the force bigger? This story is from Feb. 6:

San Diego and its police officers labor union announced on Friday a tentative agreement for compensation increases that aim to help reverse recent struggles with recruiting new officers and retaining existing staff.

The five-year pact doesn’t include salary hikes until July 2018, but most officers would see large jumps in their take-home pay starting this July because the $92 million deal includes sharp increases in benefits for veteran employees.

Those include thousands in higher stipends for uniforms, additional holiday pay and lower health insurance contributions.

“We’ve had a real crisis when it comes to recruiting and retaining some of our best and brightest police officers,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at a Friday morning press conference in City Heights announcing the deal. “That ends today.”

The recruitment and retention issues are backed by the numbers. The San Diego Police Department has about 180 budgeted, unfilled positions, and the agency says 249 officers left the force from July 2013 through last month. An independent survey shows the city has low police pay relative to other jurisdictions.

But if the city is enjoying such a safe run, why would its leaders consider the status quo unacceptable?

We’re in a strange new era when it comes to the social sciences and crime, which has gone down for three decades for reasons that researchers cannot agree on. Old theories about declining exposure to lead in childhood, increased incarceration because of tougher sentencing laws and the increase in abortions of unwanted children after the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling are still around, but there are plenty of new ideas. Vox last month cited 16 different explanations offered by researchers with varied backgrounds and different levels of hard evidence.

Police union supported by both parties

In San Diego, however, this esoteric debate never came up. Instead, the police union’s strong ties with Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the Democrats who make up the majority of the City Council and the city’s downtown establishment resulted in a consensus that more, better-paid officers are needed.

Faulconer also needs a less polarized environment at City Hall if he hopes to achieve an agenda that includes funding an expanded convention center, possibly helping build an NFL stadium and bringing coastal prosperity to minority neighborhoods south of Interstate 8. Having a good relationship with by far the city’s most powerful union can only help this agenda.

Outside of San Diego, there is a presumption that Faulconer wants to run someday for statewide office as a moderate, can-do mayor with plenty of Democratic allies. The pay deal with the police union fits this narrative.

But inside the city, Faulconer fits a familar mayoral archetype, not necessarily that of a man with big statewide ambitions. Affable Republican moderates have led the city for most of the last 40  years, from Pete Wilson to (then moderate) Roger Hedgecock to Dick Murphy to Jerry Sanders.

And though currently popular, Faulconer could face a tough re-election fight in 2016. While initial media reports depicted the GOP councilman winning election easily in a February 2014 special election against Democratic Councilman David Alvarez, his final margin of victory was only 5 percent, in an election with poor Democratic turnout.

8 comments

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  1. Richard Rider
    Richard Rider 9 March, 2015, 17:40

    One MAJOR reason San Diego has the lowest murder rate? Brace yourself for will be deemed a racist (even though accurate) observation: San Diego likely has the lowest percentage of blacks of the ten biggest cities. And blacks, which constitute about 13% of the nation’s population, commit just under 50% of the murders in America (see stats and URL’s below).

    Let me HASTEN to add that this demographic is NOT the only factor. Phoenix has almost the same percentage of blacks as San Diego, but triple the murder rate. Yet overall the other big cities DO have a larger black population — usually SIGNIFICANTLY larger.

    CAUTION: I don’t have the time to get the stats for each city. There MIGHT be one major city with a lower black population. But, as I said, most have significantly more blacks. NO ONE wants to talk about this aspect when discussing murders, or crimes in general.

    FACTS:
    Blacks constitute about 13.1% of America’s population.
    http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html

    Yet when it comes to crime, the FBI reports that in 2012 blacks committed:
    49.4% of all murders
    32.5% of all forcible rapes
    54.9% of all robberies
    34.1% of all aggravated assaults
    28.1% of ALL crime
    http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/43tabledatadecoverviewpdf

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 10 March, 2015, 15:14

      Richard, I agree with you on many things, but this is 13%/50% is BS. Correlation does not equal causation. One reason African Americans.may be in trouble more often is because their social economic status has always been delegated to poverty levels, with very few solid role models, families destroyed by welfare dependency, rampant drug and gang issues due to the low economic status, and the fact that very few are taught the value of education and lack the guiding light and role models they need to escape a poverty cycle. What you should do is point to those issues, which are most likely LESS in San Diego than the other cities, and that is the most likely reason we have fewer African Americans.

      Reply this comment
      • Richard Rider
        Richard Rider 10 March, 2015, 19:19

        Rex, you are listing REASONS you claim (justify?) blacks kill more often (mostly other blacks, BTW) but that’s not my point. My point is that they DO kill more often — the reasons why (the “causation”) I leave to others to figure out.

        BTW, I note you didn’t mention in your list of factors the “gangsta” culture of blacks — the rap glorification of violence (and denigration of women). Whose “fault” is that??

        As to poverty being the cause, Hispanics have a significantly lower per capita income than blacks. Yet blacks kill far more often.

        Your last sentence is just bizarre. Perhaps you think blacks are uncomfortable in more favorable neighborhoods, so there are fewer African Americans in San Diego?

        Reply this comment
        • Rex the Wonder Dog!
          Rex the Wonder Dog! 11 March, 2015, 07:31

          BTW, I note you didn’t mention in your list of factors the “gangsta” culture of blacks — the rap glorification of violence (and denigration of women). Whose “fault” is that??
          ==
          And other races don’t have this (Hispanic= Mexican Mafia, La Familia; Whites= Aryan Brotherhood, Public Enemy #1) ??? Is gang activity limited to one race? As for “Rap”, are you telling me that only one race listens to Rap music, that whites and Hispanics and others don’t listen to it?? NWA sold MILLIONS of records in CA alone with NO radio play, and if your 13% number is right that means NWA sold MORE records in CA than every man, woman and child who is black in this entire state. Please.
          ///
          As to poverty being the cause, Hispanics have a significantly lower per capita income than blacks. Yet blacks kill far more often.
          ===
          Do you have any data to support this claim, or did you make it up?

          Reply this comment
          • Richard Rider
            Richard Rider 15 March, 2015, 12:06

            Why do you stoop to accusing me of making up the data? You should know better by now. You DO know better, but just can’t help yourself when you lack a coherent rebuttal, apparently.

            Yes I do have the data. But why don’t YOU do a little research for a change? Don’t know how to run Google? It took me 3 minutes to relocate the confirming data.

            Here’s one of many reputable sources showing Hispanic income is lower than black income (bottom table):
            http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0701.pdf

            Now, here’s a quote from the Wikipedia article on crime:
            “According to the US Department of Justice, blacks accounted for 52.5% of homicide offenders from 1980 to 2008, with whites 45.3% and “Other” 2.2%.”
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_crime_in_the_United_States#Homicide

            Unfortunately it’s hard to get a breakout of the percent of Hispanics committing murder as the FBI doesn’t like the “Hispanic” category, but obviously it’s a subset of “whites” and “others.” With blacks committing half the murders, CLEARLY blacks kill more often than Hispanics — even if one assumes that Hispanics commit 100% of the murders blacks don’t commit.

            BTW, there are almost as many Hispanics in the country as blacks. More, if the right wingers are correct about the undercounting of illegals.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States#Racial_and_ethnic_groups

            Being a jerk about the veracity of my assertions with nothing to present to validate your claim just further undermines your shrinking credibility. Your behavior is itself an effective rebuttal of both you and your assertions.

  2. Richard Rider
    Richard Rider 9 March, 2015, 17:41

    One MAJOR reason San Diego has the lowest murder rate? Brace yourself for will be deemed a racist (even though accurate) observation: San Diego likely has the lowest percentage of blacks of the ten biggest cities. And blacks, which constitute about 13% of the nation’s population, commit just under 50% of the murders in America (see stats and URL’s below).

    Let me HASTEN to add that this demographic is NOT the only factor. Phoenix has almost the same percentage of blacks as San Diego, but triple the murder rate. Yet overall the other big cities DO have a larger black population — usually SIGNIFICANTLY larger.

    CAUTION: I don’t have the time to get the stats for each city. There MIGHT be one major city with a lower black population. But, as I said, most have significantly more blacks. NO ONE wants to talk about this aspect when discussing murders, or crimes in general.

    FACTS (I had to remove the URL’s for the website to publish this):
    Blacks constitute about 13.1% of America’s population.

    Yet when it comes to crime, the FBI reports that in 2012 blacks committed:
    49.4% of all murders
    32.5% of all forcible rapes
    54.9% of all robberies
    34.1% of all aggravated assaults
    28.1% of ALL crime

    Reply this comment
    • Ulysses Uhaul
      Ulysses Uhaul 10 March, 2015, 09:35

      San Diego is a seedy tourist trap.

      Dirty, bad roads, overpriced Brady Bunch style hotels, faux fish tacos, butt ugly housing.

      Reply this comment
  3. SD Conservative
    SD Conservative 10 March, 2015, 11:06

    There’s a missing piece to this story somewhere. An 18 month symphony of misinformation building to a crescendo and $92M? Politicians competing to respond to a problem which didn’t exist? A supposedly independent salary survey coming in just as the city got a few bucks in it’s account? None of the traditional labor union thuggery? Opposition views discredited by an overwhelming sales effort? A solution that came too fast, too easy and too big to understand? Confused reporters writing about a 2% increase despite the obvious math that it was much bigger?

    POA doesn’t have the skills, and they don’t have the money it took to pull this off. Based on their track record, this goes beyond “over achievers”.

    This was a smart, slick sales job that POA didn’t pull off on their own. I haven’t seen anything like this in San Diego since the crammed ticket guarantees and a padre stadium down our throats.

    This is the first article I’ve seen that tries to connect the dots, but I think it just scrapes the surface.

    Reply this comment

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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