The City of Murrieta officially announced its ranking as the second safest city in the nation on Dec. 2. This is the second year in a row the city has received that distinction in the 24/7 Wall St. rankings released in November. The rankings include cities with a population of 100,000 or more.
The report, which is based on the FBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime report, ranks Murrieta in second place for the lowest number of violent crimes – only 65 per 100,000 residents and a total of 70 last year for all 107,768 residents. Only Anaheim ranked higher with a total of 48 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.
Murrieta police Chief Sean Hadden said he is happy with the results but it’s important to remember that every city is different so comparing cities is not necessarily the right thing to do.
“They’ll even tell you when you go to the FBI’s website, don’t get into comparing cities with cities because there are variances that aren’t evident,” said Hadden. “I always tell people it’s not fair to compare us with Temecula. Temecula is a total different city than we are.”
Hadden said while he doesn’t think it’s fair to compare Murrieta with Temecula or other nearby cities, having those numbers is a great way to track how the city is doing from year to year.
“It is there for us to compare us to ourselves from year to year,” he said. “That’s what I really concentrate on.”
According to Hadden, each agency submits their crime numbers to the Department of Justice and then the FBI compiles those numbers that are in the reports. Definitions of what constitutes a violent crime are nationwide and don’t change from city to city or state to state.
“Violent crime is murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assaults, for that [statistics] stayed the same,” he said. “We are still number two in the rankings for the country.”
Hadden said that while violent crime remained the same from 2012 to 2013 there were less property crimes in the city last year.
“Where we really saw a decline last year was in property crimes,” he said. “We actually saw a four percent decrease so we are very happy with that. Obviously we’d like to see bigger decreases. That is what we try to do, that is what we are about, trying to reduce that crime. It’s looking really good.”
Property crimes consist of burglary, arson, larceny, and motor vehicle theft.
Hadden said that when including all crime, including property crimes, Murrieta ranked ninth in the country.
According to Hadden, Murrieta’s finest couldn’t take all the credit for the decrease in property crimes; citizens also played a big role in making that happen.
“One of the reasons we are so safe is because we do have community involvement,” he said. “We have people who care and they call in things that don’t look right or look suspicious, which gives us an opportunity to get in front of crime. It’s not just the police department, we have a great community that helps us and that’s why we have low crime.”
Hadden said the department’s officers are pleased with the ranking but don’t get overly excited.
“They are like me, we are happy with the numbers that it does show low crime but we are also thinking about how we can do better,” he said. “We are working on ways now, what other strategies can we use to impact those property crimes to get them even lower. We are pleased but we still have work to do.”
City council recently approved the hiring of a crime analyst manager for the department. The new position will help to pinpoint trends in crimes among other things.
“That helps you track crime, look for trends and do what I call smart policing, you know, stop crime before it happens,” Hadden said. “We got approved for that position … that will help us with how to deploy our resources. Having someone with that as a full-time job who can do predictive policing will help us to be a little bit safer.”
One of the programs that Hadden would like to see increasingly used is that of the Neighborhood Watch.
“We do have Neighborhood Watch; it’s not as popular as I would hope,” he said. “We have two good, established, Neighborhood Watch programs that are running now.”
To learn more about the city’s Neighborhood Watch, contact Murrieta Police Department’s program coordinator Frank LaVigne at (951) 461-6301.
“Those who are interested should call him directly,” Hadden said.
Murrieta crime statistics for 2013
2013 murders: 1 (tied-19th lowest in the nation)
Poverty rate: 8.4% (22nd lowest in the nation)
Percent of adults with high school degree: 92.9% (36th highest in the nation)
Household earnings: $78,385 (one of the higher incomes among cities reviewed)
Violent crimes per 100,000: 65 (total number of 70 the lowest of all large cities in the nation)
Property crimes per 100,000: 1,522 (national rate is 2,731 per 100,000 people)
Aggravated Assaults per 100,000 people: 38 – (lowest in the nation)