Crime Rate 

Crime rates in the United States and the San Diego County region have fallen drastically since the early 1990s,[1],[2]  but more than half of people in the United States  report that they worry a “great deal” about crime.[3] Crime can have serious consequences for both victims and people who have committed an offense.[4],[5] While the human costs, such as  trauma or suffering, are immeasurable, some of the material costs include the costs of medical care, time away from work, and property loss for victims.[6] For people who have committed an offense, consequences can include short- or long-term loss of freedoms while on probation or during incarceration and long-term consequences such as loss of rights[7] and reduced earning potential over the lifetime.[8]
 The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) were the nation’s chief source of crime data from the 1930s until 2021.[9],[10] The UCR consisted of multiple data collection projects, including Offenses Known to Law Enforcement.[11] For this program, police agencies across the U.S. counted the number of reported crimes each month in eight index offenses,[12] or crimes deemed to be serious and frequent enough, to give an idea of crime trends across time and report them to the FBI.[13],[14] The eight index offenses consisted of four violent crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) and three property crimes (burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft). Arson is a property crime monitored and reported by local jurisdictions (who report the data to the FBI), but it is not counted as a FBI index crime.[15]
 Although UCR data were comparable across time and location, it was limited by its hierarchy rule (only the most serious crime was reported when more than one crime occurred during an incident), lack of detailed information, and only included crimes known to the police. Arson is reported separately from other index property crimes because it does not follow the hierarchy rule and must be reported for each incident it occurs. In 2020, approximately 60% of violent crimes and 67% of property crimes were not reported to the police and were not captured in the UCR data.[16]In 2021, the FBI addressed some of the limitations of the UCR program by replacing it with the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which had been introduced as optional in 2011. The NIBRS does not follow the hierarchy rule and contains more detailed information about more crime types.[17] However, this report uses UCR data because reporting rates to NIBRS in 2021 was low: only 14 of 740 police agencies in California reported their crime data to the FBI through NIBRS.[18]
 Data on crimes committed in San Diego County were retrieved from the SANDAG Regional Criminal Justice Research & Clearninghouse Division. [19] Figure 1 and Figure 2 present the rates per 1,000 population of violent crimes and property crimes for jurisdictions in San Diego County. Although crime rates are listed by jurisdiction and areas with higher rates are highlighted in this summary, SANDAG and the FBI encourage caution when ranking or comparing jurisdictions because many unmeasured factors influence each of these measures. Specifically, the FBI cautions: "These rankings, however, are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state, region, or other jurisdiction. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents." [20] The FBI includes the following list of factors to consider when comparing statistics:
  • Variations in composition of population
  • Population density and size of the locality
  • Stability of population with respect to residents' mobility and commuting patterns
  • Modes of transportation
  • Economic conditions
  • Cultural conditions
  • Effective strength of law enforcement agencies
  • Policies of law enforcement and other components of the criminal justice system (i.e., prosecutorial, judicial, correctional)
  • Citizen attitudes
 As another example of why higher rates of crime in one jurisdiction may not accurately reflect true differences in crime rates, higher reported rates of crime may be due to more active law enforcement agencies or reporting of crimes by residents.
 For reports of violent crimes in 2021 (Figure 1):
  • Imperial Beach experienced the highest rate (number of homicides per 1,000 people) of reported homicide. The City of San Diego had the highest number of homicides.
  • The highest rates of rape were reported in Oceanside, El Cajon, and the City of San Diego.
  • Lemon Grove and National City experienced the highest rates of reported robbery and aggravated assaults. 
  • Aggravated assaults account for about 50% or higher of reported violent crimes. 
  For reports of property crimes in 2021 (Figure 2):
  • El Cajon, La Mesa, and National City experienced the highest rates of reported arson.
  • Del Mar and Solana Beach experienced the highest rates of reported Burglary.
  • Del Mar, Oceanside, and National City experienced the highest rates for reported larceny.
  • National City and City of San Diego experienced the highest rates of reported motor vehicle theft.
  • Among all municipalities, 55% or more of reported property crimes were larceny. 
 Although it is unknown how much differences in law enforcement actions and resident reporting affect these observed differences in crime rates across local jurisdictions, these data can help inform government, nonprofits, and other community organizations. Local nonprofits play a key role in public safety, so much so that researchers found that for a city with 100,000 residents every 10 additional community organizations that focused on crime and community life was associated with a nine percent reduction in murder rate, a six percent reduction in the violent crime rate, and a four percent reduction in property crime rate.[21] Additionally, these data can be used to inform where investment in the built environment and third spaces may have an important impact. Third spaces are free spaces outside such as parks.[22] These spaces are associated with greater senses of safety, social cohesion, and allow for increased informal contact between people within an area. [23],[24],[25]  Further, investment in the built environment is routinely associated with reduction in violent crime.[26],[27]
 Additional methods shown to reduce crime rates include developmental, situational, and community crime prevention strategies.[28] Developmental crime prevention strategies refer to interventions taken at early life stages that may impact long-term behavior, including pre- and post-natal home health visits, day care programs that focus on social and emotional development, high-quality preschool programs, and vocational training, among others. Situational crime prevention strategies include improving street lighting and other strategies that reduce opportunities for crime by changing the environment. Community crime prevention often combines elements of developmental and situational crime prevention strategies. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Crime Prevention Unit provides programs to prevent crime such as the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program and free home vacation checks, as well as resources like the Personal Safety Crime Prevention Resources and Fraud and Identity Theft Crime Prevention Resources.

Data Information 
Data Sources: SANDAG Regional Criminal Justice Research & Clearinghouse Division, April 2022. Population estimates for rate calculations were 2020 California Department of Finance estimates; 2021 estimates were not available at the time of the SANDAG report.
  1. Gramlich, J. (2020, November 20). What the data says (and doesn’t say) about crime in the United States. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from
  2. See Figures 2 and 8 for comparison of regional and national crime rates since the 1980s. SANDAG. (2022). 42 years of crime in the San Diego region: 1980 through 2021. Retrieved from,increasing%20to%203.74%20in%202021
  3. Brenan, M. (2022, April 7). Worry about crime in U.S. at highest level since 2016. Gallup. Retrieved from
  4. Basto-Pereira, M., & Farrington, D. P. (2022). Developmental predictors of offending and persistence in crime: A systematic review of meta-analyses. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 65, 101761.
  5. Fitton, L., Yu, R., & Fazel, S. (2020). Childhood maltreatment and violent outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 21(4), 754–768.
  6. Chalfin, A. (2016). The economic costs of crime. In W. G. Jennings (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment (Vol. 3). Wiley Blackwell.
  7. Chin, G. J. (2002). Race, the war on drugs, and the collateral consequences of criminal conviction. The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice, 6(2), 253-276.
  8. Booker, M. (2016). The crippling effect of incarceration on wealth. Prison Policy Initiative. Retrieved from
  9. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). CDE: About. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from
  10. Maltz, M. D. (1977). Crime statistics: A historical perspective. Crime & Delinquency, 23(1), 32–40.
  11. Lynch, J. P., & Jarvis, J. P. (2008). Missing data and imputation in the Uniform Crime Reports and the effects on national estimates. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 24(1), 69–85.
  12. In 2008, human trafficking was added to the UCR program under the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. Farrell, A., Dank, M., Kafafian, M., Lockwood, S., Pfeffer, R., Hughes, A., & Vincent, K. (2019). Capturing human trafficking victimization through crime reporting (No. 252520).
  13. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2013). Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division Uniform Crime Reporting Summary Reporting System (SRS) User Manual.
  14. Maltz, M. D. (1977). Crime statistics: A historical perspective. Crime & Delinquency, 23(1), 32–40.
  15. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2013). Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division Uniform Crime Reporting Summary Reporting System (SRS) User Manual.
  16. Morgan, R. E., & Thompson, A. (2021). Criminal Victimization, 2020 (NCJ 301775). Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  17. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). CDE: About. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from
  18. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). Crime Data Explorer. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from
  19. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2012). Caution Against Ranking. Uniform Crime Report, Crime in the United States, 2012. Retrieved from   
  20. Sharkey, P., Torrats-Espinsoa, G., & Takyar, D. (2017). Community and Crime Decline: The Casual Effect of Nonprofits on Violent Crime. American Sociological Review 82(6):1214-1240.
  21. Butler, S.M. and Diaz, C. (2016). “Third places” as Community Builders. Brookings Institute. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from,good%20time%2C%20and%20build%20relationships
  22. Grawer, A. & Kim, N. (2022). Myths and Realities: Understanding Recent Trends in Violent Crime. Brennan Center for Justice. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from   
  23. Butler, S.M. and Diaz, C. (2016). “Third places” as Community Builders. Brookings Institute. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from,good%20time%2C%20and%20build%20relationships
  24. Love, H. (2021). Want to Reduce Violence? Invest in Place. Brookings Institute. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from
  25. Ibid.
  26. Branas, C. C., South, E., Kondo, M. C., Hohl, B. C., Bourgois, P., Wiebe, D. J., & MacDonald, J. M. (2018). Citywide cluster randomized trial to restore blighted vacant land and its effects on violence, crime, and fear. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(12), 2946-2951.
  27. Welsh, B. C., Farrington, D. P., & Gowar, B. R. (2015). Benefit-cost analysis of crime prevention programs. Crime and Justice, 44(1), 447–516.
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Updated February 7, 2024