A number of major crime categories are down across the Antelope Valley, and a couple are up, notably car theft, rape and arson. The other category that chills people to the bone, homicide, appears to be notching up.
In a population area that has nearly a half-million people, the incidence of a rise in murders by 16 to 20 is statistically not much of a gain. On the other hand, nobody wants that to go higher.
What is the big news taken from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department preliminary statistics? It is that overall, crime is down marginally through Oct. 31 in Lancaster, Palmdale, and the surrounding incorporated areas.
The crime categories that are down by around 5% are rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny theft and arson.
Automobile theft has gone up in Palmdale to virtually equal the number of cars stolen in Lancaster, with Palmdale at 333 and Lancaster at 334. Think about it, and 667 cars taken is a lot of theft, insurance troubles and heartache.
Palmdale Sheriff's Capt. Don Ford implores people not to leave the keys in the car with the motor running, even if the weather has turned cold in the morning. In the more densely populated areas such as Palmdale or Lancaster, Capt. Ford notes, "People are leaving their cars unsecured." He added, "I want to emphasize: Don't leave your keys in the car started up in the morning. You're going to come out and find the car gone."
Words to the wise, and the good news is that car thefts have dropped by nearly a third in the unincorporated areas.
Other very good news, rapes reported in Lancaster and Palmdale have fallen in the double digits, down 43% in Palmdale and 31% in Lancaster. Domestic violence has also decreased.
"We've made some real efforts with domestic violence cases to get the word out to women to help them to get out of situations, to call us when there's problems so that we can try to reduce the danger to them," Ford said.
Arson crime is down, raising hopes that firebugs are being sent to crawl under the rocks they came from, down by 7.1% in Palmdale and a whopping 37% in Lancaster. All to the good.
In Lancaster, Capt. Pat Nelson, said a variety of innovative programs, including special teams, have held the line on robberies, down by 18%.
A rise in the murder rate looks like it is the sustained mission of the Sheriff's Department to do all it can to suppress gang activity. A little girl was killed, and the two suspects charged in that heinous crime were identified as gang members.
The crimes per 10,000 residents counted at 228.8 in Palmdale and 235.5 in Lancaster. There was a time, and that time was in 2007, that the hope that seemed elusive was to get crimes per 10,000 people under 400. That has been achieved, but there is still work to be done.
The Sheriff's deputies have their work cut out for them, and it is never made easier, it seems, by the actions of our dysfunctional state government in Sacramento. Gov. Jerry Brown has been trying to stave off the release of thousands more parolees into California communities, most of them to Los Angeles County. His so-called realignment program is a hifalutin' way of saying "We are going to put our state prisoners into your county jails." The downwind result of that is that county jail prisoners do very short stints in jail, which defeats justice and reduces safety.
We can help. Neighborhood Watch programs put citizens on the alert as to who is moving through their communities. Taking crime down in the Antelope Valley has been a joint effort of the deputies, leadership in our communities and citizens alike. Taking responsibility for quality of life and community safety is a joint effort and demonstrates that it is the people who are strong, not the ones who prey on the people.