Crime Log: Seal Beach Police report 29 percent crime increase from 2016 to 2017

Local crime—that is, so-called Part 1 crime—increased 29 percent last year, according to annual crime data recently released by the Seal Beach Police Department. (Larceny accounted for more than half of the known crimes.) According to SBPD, robbery alone increased 533 percent from 2016 to 2017.

The reported crime increase, consistent with reports from many Southland communities, comes at a time when Interim Chief Joe Miller is seeking more officers for the SBPD and city officials are looking for revenue to pay for more officers.

Reported Part 1 crime increases were across the board—property crimes increased and so did most violent crimes, with the exception of homicide, which remained unchanged from 2016.  Robbery saw the largest percentage increase of all.

In 2016, the SBPD reported a 6 percent decrease in overall Part 1 crime from 2015.

“There are increases in crime in many Orange County jurisdictions.  We believe our increases are part of a greater, statewide trend of increased crime,” said Sgt. Michael Henderson, the department’s spokesman.

This article will focus primarily on the differences between 2016 and 2017 crime data in Seal Beach.

Definitions and explanations

When analyzing crime statistics, keep in mind that the numbers only reflect the crimes reported to the police or discovered by police officers in the course of their duties.

Also, if two different crimes stem from the same act, U.S. Department of Justice guidelines say only the most serious of the crimes should be counted. Seal Beach adheres to  Department of Justice guidelines in keeping crime statistics.

Arson isn’t included in the Part 1 data. The Orange County Fire Authority keeps the arson data. Also keep in mind that without the details, percentages alone don’t tell the entire story. For example, there was one homicide in the 2016 crime statistics, the still unsolved murder of John Donnelly and the murder/suicide in Old Town that took place last summer. An assault that later resulted in a man’s death was classified statistically as an aggravated assault, not a homicide.

Statistically, that means there was a zero percent change in Seal Beach homicides.

“The incident at Clancy’s that resulted in a death was classified as an aggravated assault ([California Penal Code] 245(a)(1)) by SBPD, and the DA’s office added the charge of manslaughter,” said Corporal Julia Clasby, who was acting public information officer last week.

The Part 1 crime trend from 2016 to 2017 appears to be consistent for surrounding communities.

The SBPD included so-called simple assaults with the crime data, even though simple assaults are not technically classified as Part 1 offenses. According to Clasby,  “Other assaults (or simple assaults) are classified as Part II offenses. They are defined as assaults and attempted assaults where no weapon was used or no serious or aggravated injury resulted to the victim. Stalking, intimidation, coercion, and hazing are included.”

Aggravated assaults are more serious. “An assault with a deadly weapon which did not result in serious injury or death (such as swinging a hammer at someone’s head and missing) would be classified as an aggravated assault because of the intent to cause serious injury or death and the use of a weapon in the commission of the assault. Any time there is an assault with intent to inflict injury to another’s head with a weapon or a force likely to cause great bodily harm (kicking with a foot), that is generally considered an aggravated assault due to the potential for serious injury or death if contact is made,” Clasby said.

Clasby explained how an event on the street is turned into a statistic.

“During the initial investigation by the patrol officer, they select the crime to list in their report based on the circumstances at that time,” Clasby said before citing the penal codes for a simple assault and aggravated assault.

“However, if the victim’s condition worsens after the initial patrol report (succumb to their injuries at the hospital or left with permanent disability or disfigurement that wasn’t anticipated at the time of the incident) the investigator or even the DA’s office can upgrade the crime offense” from assault or battery to aggravated assault or battery with serious bodily injury, according to Clasby.

However the case is ultimately classified is how it will be reported to the FBI for Part I offense reporting,” Clasby said. “The incident at Clancy’s that resulted in a death was classified as an aggravated assault (CPC 245(a)(1)) by SBPD, and the DA’s office added the charge of manslaughter,” Clasby said.

Other definitions to keep in mind:

Part 1 crimes include homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, car theft and larceny. Larceny is a broad category of theft that, according to the FBI includes “thefts of bicycles, motor vehicle parts and accessories, shoplifting, pocket-picking, or the stealing of any property or article that is not taken by force and violence or by fraud.” Theft from a car is also a type of larceny. So larceny, the largest category of Part 1 crime, is basically miscellaneous theft that doesn’t belong in the Part 2 crime data. (Embezzlement is a Part 2 crime, along with fraud, counterfeiting and drug abuse crimes.)

The basic numbers

There were 811 Part 1 crimes in Seal Beach last year. That number includes the known simple assaults. Of those 811 crimes, more than half—506 to be precise—were larceny thefts. In 2016, there were 629 Part 1 crimes (again, including simple assualts.  Roughly two-thirds of the 2016 crimes were represented by 426 incidents of larceny. The difference between the overall 2016 and 2017 Part 1 statistics was an increase of 29 percent overall. Larceny increased by 19 percent.

Specifics—violent crime

Robbery is defined as the threat or application of violence to steal money or property. In Seal Beach, robbery saw the single largest increase of all the 2017 crimes, according to SBPD data—a 533 percent increase. In 2016, there were three known robberies in Seal Beach. In 2017, there were 19 known robberies; a difference of 16 more specific crimes.

“Seal Beach has a larger percentage increase because there are fewer robberies in general as compared to cities like Garden Grove, Westminster, Huntington Beach and Long Beach. For example if Seal Beach recorded 1 robbery in 2016 and 6 in 2017, that is a 500% increase. If Garden Grove had 30 robberies in 2016 and 35 in 2017, that is only a 17% increase. A relatively small number increase will appear as a large percentage increase in cities like Seal Beach,” said Cpl. Clasby.

There were three rapes reported in Seal Beach last year—a 200 percent increase from 2016. According to Sgt. Henderson, arrests were made in all three cases and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office filed charges in those cases.

There were 28 aggravated assaults in Seal Beach last year, six more than in 2016—an increase of 27 percent. Simple assaults doubled from year to year: 57 in 2016 and 114 in 2017—a 100 percent increase.

Specifics—property crime

Property crimes also saw across the board increases. In addition to the previously mentioned increase in larceny, car theft and burglary increased. Taking someone’s car should not be confused with stealing property that was left inside a car—that crime would be lumped in with the other “larceny” offenses.

A burglary is defined as entering a home or business to steal property. (However, last year Sgt. Henderson said that a theft from an unlocked garage would be classified as a larceny.) In 2016, there were 80 burglaries in Seal Beach. In 2017, there were 92 burglaries in town, an increase of 15 percent.

Car theft increased 23 percent, from 39 in 2016 to 48 in 2017.

Seal Beach compared with neighboring cities

Seal Beach resident and activist Robert Goldberg compared Seal Beach crime stats with those of neighboring cities Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Long Beach and Westminster. Goldberg shared some of his data analysis with the Sun. He filed a California Public Records Act request for the crime data and was provided with the city’s monthly data reports rather than the annual release. He also looked at FBI and California data

When all Part 1 crime data for the communities was combined, his analysis found a 4 percent drop in crimes from 2016 to 2017. However, simple assault data wasn’t available from  Huntington Beach, Long Beach or Westminster. According to Goldberg, Huntington Beach Police provided their “in-house” data for 2017, but referred him to FBI statistics for 2017. Goldberg’s spreadsheet did not include data for rape or homicide.

According to Goldberg’s analysis, which left out simple assaults, Seal Beach saw a 22 percent increase in Part 1 crime last year.

According to Goldberg, robbery increased in all cities—21 percent in Garden Grove, 25 percent in Huntington Beach, 9 percent in Long Beach, 35 percent in Westminster and, as already reported earlier in this article, by 533 percent in Seal Beach. The combined increase in robberies for all five cities was 13 percent greater for 2017 than in 2016.

Editor’s note:
The story has been slightly revised since it appeared in the print edition to correct two typgraphical errors and to clarify differences between the city’s crime data and a resident’s analysis of the crime data.