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Commentary: Why is crime up in Encinitas?

By Julie Thunder

According to FBI crime statistics recently published on SANDAG’s website, it remains true that Encinitas experiences a lower rate of crime than does the wider San Diego region.

That’s the good news.

The bad news, unfortunately, is that things are changing: The city of Encinitas saw the local crime rate rise sharply in 2020.

The tally of what the FBI terms “Index” crimes (a combination of violent crimes and crimes against property), was up 17% per capita in Encinitas, in stark contrast to an 8% decline in the broader region.

Violent crime in Encinitas increased 55%, versus 1% for the region, and Encinitas property crimes were up 12%, versus the region’s decline of 10%.

The FBI documented crime increase comports with anecdotal evidence one hears from residents.

Many believe Encinitas is experiencing more crime, and they may be right.

One’s first reaction to this news might be to suspect the influence of the pandemic and the associated lockdown, or perhaps last year’s social discord on display across the nation.

They would be mistaken. Were it so, we would observe a parallel effect in the data pertaining to other cities and towns. In fact, only one other locality saw a comparable increase in crime: Valley Center, with a population less than 1/6 that of Encinitas, took the top spot, with its index crime rate up 22% — likely a small absolute increase on a very low base.

Without access to more granular data it’s difficult to form a reasoned conclusion about the cause of this increase.

Hopefully it is the result of some local policy misstep. If so, a policy adjustment could lead to a course correction.

Looking back over the prior year, one local government policy shift is noted — Encinitas became more accommodating toward the homeless population, likely resulting in growth of that cohort among us.

Many residents believe that more homelessness results in more crime — perhaps it’s true.

We need to know for sure.

This is an issue that demands more scrutiny. The public deserves to know what is happening and to have a say in what will be done about it.

A sound understanding of the causes of crime in Encinitas cannot be developed without thorough knowledge of the facts and circumstance.

To avoid misapprehension of the issue, the City Council should communicate to the San Diego County Sheriff its desire that full public disclosure be made of the reports and underlying data on which the FBI summary was based.

Naturally, such data should be anonymized to the extent necessary to protect the innocent and to avoid interference with ongoing investigations.

Assessing the problem of crime with incorrect information can lead to bad policy decisions.

If the surge evident in the latest report resulted from increased homelessness, we need to know that.

If not, we need to discern the true origin of this social deterioration.

The City Council should enable the residents of Encinitas to have access to this information, in order to shed light on whatever the truth may be.

Julie Thunder is a former Encinitas mayoral candidate.