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CRIMES AND CLEARANCE RATES IN CALIFORNIA—A LOOK AT THE STATISTICAL RECORD

 

The California Department of Justice makes crime statistics available to the public that can be an interesting read for a legal nerd such as myself. Even if you aren’t a legal nerd, I think you might find the data noteworthy. In the “Crimes & Clearances” statistics, we can see the raw numbers of various crimes committed by state and by each individual county and even breakdowns by city and precinct.

Taking a look at Orange County only for the years 2010 through 2019, one crime stands out: rape.  While virtually every other category of crime, from homicide to robbery, to arson and other crimes went down or remained steady over the ten year period, rape has shown steady and notable increases (from the high 300’s to the low 400’s reported rape crimes in 2010-2013, suddenly jumping to 650 in 2014 and since then registering in the high 700’s to the low 900’s). This could reflect an increase in reported rapes, or it could reflect a real increase in rape.  The same pattern held true for the entire state.

While this news is distressing, most other crimes have held steady or declined slightly. On the other side of the rape statistics is arson. Arson crimes decreased substantially between 2010-2019. Like rape, there could be alternative explanations. For example, more robust wildfire seasons where fires are often started by individuals who are later charged with arson could account for the differences.

The most common crimes in California are property crimes (burglary, motor vehicle theft, and larceny). This is no surprise.  Property crimes are also the most common crime committed in Orange County. There are roughly between 60,000 to 70,000 property crimes reported in Orange County each year. And of these property crimes, the most common is larceny (theft).  Breaking it down even further, the largest number of property crimes, by a large margin, is theft from a motor vehicle.

The data also tell us the “clearance rates.” Clearance rates are the number of reported crimes that end up in a criminal charge—in other words, the number of crimes solved by law enforcement. You may be surprised to learn that the vast majority of crimes are not solved. “Solved” means only that the perpetrator of the crime was arrested and charged; it does not mean a conviction was obtained.

The only crime that has a respectable clearance rate is homicide. But at somewhere between 60 percent and 65 percent clearance in California, that is barely adequate.  Thirty-five percent to 40 percent of murders go unsolved! For other crimes, the clearance rates are abysmally low. Rape has a clearance rates of around 35 percent to 40 percent. Assault has a slightly better clearance rate of around a 50 percent. And those property crimes—a measly 10 percent to 14 percent were solved over the years 2010 to 2019.

For the legal nerds, the source for these statistics can be found here: https://openjustice.doj.ca.gov/exploration/crime-statistics/crimes-clearances

It is the criminal defense attorney’s job to step in when the police solve a crime. If you or a loved one has ends up on the wrong side the law, Orange County attorney William Weinberg can provide immediate help. He is available for a free consultation where he will review the facts of the case and offer your best defense strategies and options. You may contact him by calling his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.