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Homicide rate in California drops to 44-year low

POSTED May 24, 2011 10:44 p.m.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today released updated figures showing that the homicide rate in California continued to fall during 2010, reaching the lowest level since 1966.

Preliminary figures gathered by the Department of Justice from the state's largest jurisdictions show that the number of homicides reported in 2010 declined by 9.6 percent from the year before.

"The decline in homicides and other violent crimes reflects the tireless efforts of our peace officers," said Harris. "My office is committed to supporting their brave, relentless and selfless work in protecting the people of California from hardened criminals."

Overall, the number of violent crimes declined 6.4 percent in 2010, according to statistics compiled from 89 agencies that report about 65 percent of all crimes committed annually in California. Forcible rape declined 6 percent. Robbery dropped 8.9 percent, and aggravated assault fell 4.6 percent.

Property crimes declined 2.2 percent in 2010. Burglary dropped 0.9 percent. Motor vehicle theft declined 7.2 percent. Arson dropped 15 percent. Larceny under $400 dropped 4.9 percent. Only larceny over $400 rose, by 0.7 percent.

The 2010 figures are a preliminary update of the annual report "Crime in California 2009," which was released earlier this year. That report, which was compiled using data submitted to the Department of Justice by police and sheriffs in the state's 58 counties, showed the homicide rate in California fell in 2009 by nearly 9 percent.

A second report, "Homicides in California 2009," provides an even more detailed analysis.

Homicides dropped from 2,143 in 2008 to 1,970 in 2009. That marked the fourth consecutive year of decline, and a numerical decline of 5 percent since 2000.

Gang-related homicides between 2008 and 2009 increased 18 percent and accounted for nearly 40 percent of all homicides in California where the contributing circumstances were reported.

The majority of homicides in 2009 in the state - 70.5 percent - involved firearms. More than 84 percent of victims ages 18 to 29 were killed with guns, but just slightly more than 51 percent of victims over 40 were killed with guns.

Besides firearms, the weapons used in 2009 homicides were knives (15.1 percent); hands and feet (5.5 percent); clubs and other blunt objects (5.3 percent); rope, drugs and all other weapons (3.6 percent).
Some 35 percent of 2009 homicides, where the contributing circumstances were reported, occurred as a result of an argument. Another 8.4 percent occurred as the result of rape, burglary or robbery. Another 2.5 percent were drug-related, a decrease from 3 percent in 2008.

In cases where police could determine relationships, the majority of victims were killed by friends or acquaintances. Less than 30 percent were killed by strangers, the rest by family members.

Hispanics were homicide victims far more often than whites, African Americans or members of other ethnic groups; they accounted for 46.6 percent of all homicides in 2009.

Among those arrested in 2009 for homicide, 90 percent were male and 10 percent were female. Men were victims 82.2 percent of the time; women, 17.8 percent. Females were more likely to be killed in their residences, while men were more likely to be killed on streets or sidewalks.

Gang-related homicides claimed more male victims than any other factor (46.2 percent). Domestic violence claimed more female homicide victims (41.3 percent). Homicide victims under the age of 5 overwhelmingly died as a result of child abuse (almost 90 percent).

Among the state's 35 largest counties in 2009, Monterey County had the highest homicide rate per 100,000 population at 11.8 percent, and Napa County had the lowest at 0.7 percent.

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