San Diego saw a 7.5 percent decrease in major crimes last year, police say

Robbery, aggravated assaults and vehicle burglaries were up, while murder, rape, theft and burglaries fell


Crimes across San Diego, including homicides, rapes, and thefts, fell by about 7.5 percent in 2022, but violent crime, largely fueled by a jump in robberies, still inched up, city figures show.

At a news conference Thursday, San Diego police Chief David Nisleit and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria applauded the drop, noting it was achieved as the Police Department continues to struggle with a staffing shortage. As of this week, the department was down about 200 officers.

For the record:

3:34 p.m. April 21, 2023A previous version of this story misstated Cindy Burke’s title at the San Diego Association of Governments. She is the senior director of data science.

(File photo)

“We should all celebrate the fact that we’re one of the safest big cities in America,” Gloria said. “And we’re doing it under very stretched resources.”

Property crimes — burglary, larceny and vehicle theft — fell nearly 10 percent last year. Violent crimes — homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — increased by about 3 percent.

The rise in violent crime was largely attributed to a double-digit jump in robberies, which increased by more than 18 percent from 2021 to 2022. Nisleit said armed robberies of pedestrians and carjackings were some of the crimes that fueled the rise.

Aggravated assaults increased by about 1 percent.

Despite the increase, San Diego continues to have one of the lowest violent crime rates among the country’s largest cities, police officials said.

“San Diego remains one of the safest big cities in the nation, and we can never take that for granted,” Nisleit said. “SDPD will continue to focus on proactively preventing crimes before they occur and investigating cases to their full extent to bring justice for our communities.”

While violent and property crime increases are calculated by comparing crime totals between years, crime rates are calculated by comparing crime totals to the population. Sometimes, crime totals increase while rates decrease, partly due to population shifts.

Cindy Burke, the senior director of data science at the San Diego Association of Governments — or SANDAG, speculated that the increase in some violent crimes could stem from continuing hardship in the wake of the pandemic.

“It could reflect economic challenges, or other things communities are facing post-COVID,” Burke said.

Homicides fell from 57 in 2021 to 51 in 2022, and rapes saw a year-over-year decrease of about 13 percent. Non-fatal shootings also decreased by 56 cases — about 23 percent — as did crimes committed by gang members, which fell by 17 percent.

Nearly all forms of gang crime decreased last year except drive-by shootings which doubled from seven cases in 2021 to 14 cases in 2022.

District 3, which includes downtown San Diego and neighborhoods like North Park and Hillcrest, saw the most violent crime of all city districts last year, while District 9, which encompasses communities like City Heights, College Area and Mountain View, saw the most non-fatal shootings.

Among property crimes, larceny saw the biggest reductions — decreasing nearly 15 percent from 2021 to 2022.

Some questioned whether the city’s property crime decreases stemmed from fewer crimes happening or from fewer crimes being reported.

Jared Wilson, president of the San Diego Police Officers Association, noted that larceny crimes are typically classified as Priority Two calls, and police response times for those types of crimes have continued to climb. In fiscal year 2023, it took officers nearly two hours to respond to these kinds of calls, according to city budget documents.

“We know... that many citizens don’t have the time to wait two hours for a theft report, thus many of these incidents go unreported,” Wilson said in a statement.

Nisleit said he didn’t think fewer officers or longer response times were responsible for the larceny decrease. Rather, he argued that Proposition 47, which changed some non-violent property crimes into misdemeanors, fuels under-reporting in general.

“They don’t report because they don’t feel like anybody’s going to be held accountable,” Nisleit said.

Hate crimes also decreased in 2022, by about 17 percent, police said. Race-related bias accounted for more than half of all hate crimes committed last year.

Experts say crime in San Diego remains at near-historic lows when compared with the rates seen in the 1980s and 1990s. Both violent and property crime rates have held fairly steady over the last decade. Current crime rates are comparable to the late 1950s, when the city’s population was much smaller, police officials said.

“While we’ve had ups and downs as a region, we are definitely much lower than where we were,” Burke said.

SANDAG is expected to release violent and property crime statistics for the whole county in the next few weeks, and the preliminary analysis shows the region saw a slightly higher violent crime rate when compared to 2021, and a lower property crime rate — similar to the city of San Diego.