Calif. county sees drop in crime; officials credit anti-gang measures

Gregory W. Griggs
Los Angeles Times

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. The creation of a gang unit was credited with a 21% decline in violent crime during the first six months of the year in the unincorporated areas and five cities patrolled by the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

"They've been very effective and very, very busy," said Sheriff's Capt. Ron Nelson, noting that the gang unit stepped up enforcement in mid-June, conducting parole violation inspections and drivers license checkpoints that resulted in 49 arrests.

"The majority of the arrests were for drug-related offenses," Nelson said. "We got a lot of gang members off the street."

In addition to overseeing the unincorporated areas, the Sheriff's Department contracts to provide services to Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai and Thousand Oaks.

Violent crime which includes homicides, rapes, robberies, burglaries, vehicle theft, grand theft and arson was down throughout the sheriff's jurisdiction.

The biggest drop was in aggravated assaults, which fell from 240 to 185, representing a 23% decline that helped lower all violent crime statistics.

Overall, violent crime was down 21% in Camarillo, 27% in Ojai, 42% in Moorpark and 20% in Thousand Oaks. Unincorporated areas saw a 21% drop. The only exception was Fillmore, which reported a 4% increase in violent crime and accounted for the only reported homicide.

But the actual number of offenses was minimal for the city of 15,000. For example, the number of robberies went from three to four, accounting for a 33% increase.

But overall major crimes were down 28% in Fillmore, which added a second deputy to its station's anti-gang effort.

"A 28% reduction is the highest of any contract city in the county," said Dave Wareham, an administrative sergeant with the department. "And you can quote me on that."

Wareham said the station's 23 sworn personnel arrest an average of two local gang members a night, which he said helped cut drug-related burglaries and thefts and trimmed overall crime by 66 incidents, down to 167.

"We basically have a 'no tolerance' policy toward gang members and people who commit violent crimes," Wareham said.

Indeed, the overall number of major crimes in the sheriff's reporting area remained flat or unchanged

Camarillo experienced a 9% drop in so-called Part 1 crimes, while crime in the unincorporated areas of the county was down 11%.

Meanwhile, Port Hueneme, a coastal town of 22,000 people, released its crime statistics on Wednesday, with a drop in robberies and thefts combining to bring the city's overall major crimes down by 27%.

Copyright 2007 The Los Angeles Times

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