By Shawn Raymundo
More than 1,000 reports of serious crimes in San Clemente were reported to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in 2019, roughly matching what had been logged the previous year, according to the city’s police chief, Lt. Edward Manhart.
In 2019, San Clemente saw 1,013 reports of Part I crimes—one fewer than 2018—Manhart revealed to city councilors during their meeting on Monday, March 2. Such crimes, he explained, include assaults, auto theft, commercial burglary, criminal homicide, larceny-theft, rape and robbery.
Reports of Part II crimes, such as misdemeanor assaults, narcotics-related law violations and sex offenses, to name a few, saw an uptick from 1,678 in 2018 to 1,777 in 2019, according to Manhart’s presentation.
Arrests and citations increased last year, as San Clemente police services made 1,291 arrests, up from the 1,074 arrests in 2018, while there were 1,783 recorded citations, 181 more than 2018.
The police response times for both Priority 1 and Priority 2 calls fell behind from the previous year’s pace, according to the crime stats. In 2019, the response time for Priority 1 calls for crimes in progress averaged 4 minutes and 55 seconds, up from 4:48 in 2018. Manhart explained that the goal for Priority 1 calls is to get to the scene within five minutes.
The response time for Priority 2 calls went up from 13:03 in 2018 to 16:55 in 2019.
Out of the 1,013 Part I crimes, 700 (or 69%) accounted for larceny-theft reports, according to the stats. Between 2017 and 2018, there was a sharp increase of about 21% in larceny-theft reports, increasing from 574 to 697.
Commercial burglary crimes, which made up 8% of the total of Part I crimes, grew from 53 reports in 2018 to 77 in 2019—a 45.2% jump. In 2017, there were 78 reports of commercial burglary.
Reports of rape had the biggest drop, from nine in 2018 to three in 2019. Reports of assault also saw a precipitous drop of about 19%, going from 77 in 2018 to 62 in 2019. In 2017, there were 45 reports of assault, the stats show.
As for Part II crimes, narcotics-related law violations and miscellaneous violations each made up about 20% of the 1,777 reports last year. OCSD reported 357 miscellaneous violations in 2019, a slight increase from the 332 reported the year before, and 348 reports of narcotics law violations, 20 more than what had been logged in 2018.
Misdemeanor assaults, drunkenness, embezzlement and fraud, as well as vandalism have all seen steady increases over the past three years, according to the stats.
Misdemeanor assault crimes rose by roughly 13.9 percent between 2017, when there were 252 reports, and 2019, which had 287 reports. In 2017, there were 166 vandalism reports. Those reports grew to 184 the following year and again to 214 in 2019, resulting in a nearly 29% rise over the three-year period.
Embezzlement reports increased from 111 to 186 over those three years and reports of drunkenness rose to 43 last year, up from the 39 in 2018 and 24 in 2017.
The Part II crime with the steepest climb since 2017 was forgery and counterfeiting, the stats show. According to Manhart’s presentation, there were 11 such crimes reported in 2017 and 26 reported in 2018. Last year, the reports reached 59, an increase of 126.9%.
Manhart told the council that OCSD has seen theft and fraud go up significantly, warning of criminals targeting vehicles to steal credit and debit cards, and of a scheme, referred to as spoofing, wherein a criminal attempts to obtain a person’s information over the phone under false pretenses.
Mayor Dan Bane was at the center of such a scheme recently. According to the mayor, a resident was contacted by a person whose number was displayed as from the city of San Clemente. The caller claimed to be a city official and notified the person that the city was going to put a lock on the individual’s tire unless a payment was made.
The caller, Bane continued, claimed to be working under the authority of the mayor.
“I don’t have the authority to do that,” Bane said jokingly. He further recalled the citizen calling the mayor asking, “Hey, are you going to come lock my car?”
Manhart advised residents to not keep their important belongings like credit cards unattended inside vehicles and to not give out sensitive personal information over the phone. If ever asked for such information, he said, call the police “because we need to know about this to keep us informed.”
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.