10/16/20: Here’s the Truth About Crime in Encinitas

My opponent repeatedly makes the charge that crime is “skyrocketing” in Encinitas, even titling her recent campaign email, “Does our Mayor Even Care about Crime?” This is fear-mongering.

True leadership means knowing how to read statistics and understand their actual meaning. Misrepresenting crime data to try to win an election by stoking people’s anxieties is simply dishonest.

Here’s the truth: Encinitas remains among the top safest cities in the county, and crime is not “skyrocketing.” In fact, according to the SANDAG mid-year report, the total number of all crimes in Encinitas has decreased by 32% since 2016, when I became your mayor. (575 incidents in 2016 to 392 in 2020.)

Out of the 231 cities in our state, Encinitas is California’s 29th safest, up 24 positions from last year, according to Safewise’s California’s 50 Safest Cities of 2020, last updated on October 6.

Let’s look at the real numbers from the SANDAG mid-year report, and I’ll include the details provided by the Sheriff’s captain at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Capt. Taft spent nearly an hour explaining the revealing facts behind the numbers. Here’s a condensed version (6:50) that hits the high points. Or you can watch his entire presentation here.

“Encinitas is a Very Safe Place to Live:” Crime Stats in Encinitas Explained in Under 7 Minutes (Click here or the image above to watch.)

We’ll start with this statement: “Violent crimes have skyrocketed 58% during the past year.” This figure doesn’t include the actual number of incidents and victims, just the seemingly alarming percentage increase.

(The same disquieting statistic serves as the headline of this San Diego Union-Tribune story, but the actual article gets closer to the truth, minus the bottom line of Encinitas’ overall decreasing crime. A Coast News story is here.)

Because of the low crime numbers in Encinitas, small increases in raw numbers can create a high percentage increase. The big picture remains solid: overall crime is low and compared to just four years ago has gone down by a third.

“CRIME WAVE”: It’s not even Halloween yet, but “Concerned Citizens of Encinitas” and my opponent are really working overtime to frighten Encinitas residents.

The reality behind the statistics becomes clearer when we learn what’s behind them. Aggravated assaults (an unlawful attack upon a person for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury) went up, from 30 incidents in Jan.-June of 2019 to 41 incidents during the same period in 2020. The reason for this increase is that one incident can result in multiple “aggravated assaults” when there are multiple people involved.

Notably, in 2019 there were 30 cases and 30 victims; and in 2020 there were 34 cases but 41 victims. What were these 2020 incidents that had multiple victims? Here’s what Captain Taft told the City Council:

  • Someone drunk was kicked out of a bar and decided to get in the car and drove onto the sidewalk, endangering multiple people.
  • A road rage incident where one man accused the other of brandishing a gun. Three people were in one car. The accused person said he didn’t have a gun, only a cell phone.
  • A guy on the beach was being teased by his teenage friends and he pulled out a knife and threatened them. No one was injured.

In the category of robberies, which sound dangerous but also include shoplifting, there were five in 2019 and 15 in 2020. 

Half of the 15 robberies that occurred in 2020 were shoplifting that took place at gas stations or 7-Elevens. Many occurred right after the pandemic shutdown in March, when someone would do a “grab and go” on a beer run. Another one involved a man demanding a woman’s face mask – when she wouldn’t give it to him, he grabbed it from her. Because force or fear were involved, that’s considered a robbery. 

One of the reasons some neighboring cities crime went down even more than Encinitas is because in Encinitas we have big box stores like Walmart, Home Depot and Target that were deemed “essential” and allowed to stay open when the shutdown hit. In neighboring cities like Del Mar and Solana Beach that don’t have those big stores, every store was closed. In addition, the fairgrounds is shut down, which accounts for some of Del Mar’s crime every year.

There were also two individuals who accounted for at least 32 different crimes, including stealing bikes, and stealing catalytic converters. In 2019 we had two catalytic converter thefts and in 2020 we had 12 of those cases, which targeted Priuses and Ford trucks. Both of those perpetrators are now in custody.

Residential burglaries did not go up, but commercial burglaries at stores that were closed down did.

I asked Captain Taft if it appeared that there was any increase in crime related to civil unrest, protests over beach closures or other gatherings, and people who are homeless. His answer was that the data does not indicate a link between the events of the moment and a change in crime statistics.  

A portion of Captain Taft’s PowerPoint presentation to the Encinitas City Council.

Captain Taft ended his presentation to the City Council by saying, “Encinitas is a very safe place to live. I would live here. The true test of that is if you ask a cop where they would live and they say ‘Yeah, I’ll live in that city,’ definitely it is a good indicator that you live in a safe city… Encinitas is not a crime-free city, but it’s a safe city.”

I hope this helps clear up some of the misinformation.

When you hear alarming claims, it’s best to consider the motivation of those who are making them, and take the time to get the real story.

Meet all three incumbent candidates at once on Monday!

You’re invited to join us this Monday, October 19, from 7p-8p for the Encinitas Candidate Forum, a moderated Q&A session with Deputy Mayor Kellie Hinze, Councilmember Tony Kranz, and me that we’re jointly presenting.

We’re hoping to send another mailer

If we can get enough contributions, we’d like to send out a new mailer to Encinitas residents outlining what we stand for and why we need to continue our work together.

Please donate if you can with a contribution of up to $250 ($500 per couple). Thanks and appreciation to the hundreds of you who have already helped! I’m always grateful for larger contributions, and it touches me when we get smaller contributions, because I know money is tight and that our cause must be very important to those donors.

I hope you can enjoy the weekend outdoors while the weather is still so gorgeous!

In service,