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CITIES STILL AMONG SAFEST PERCENTAGES UP, BUT CRIME INCIDENTS LOW.

Byline: Andrea Cavanaugh Staff Writer

Violent crime rose 56 percent in Moorpark and 19 percent in Simi Valley last year, but the communities are still considered two of the safest cities in America, according to recently released crime statistics.

Although no homicides were committed in Moorpark during the past two years, the city saw a 200 percent increase in rapes, from one report in 2002 to three in 2003, and a 250 percent increase in robberies, from two incidents in 2002 to seven last year.

City Councilman Keith Millhouse pointed out that despite the increase, Moorpark had the lowest per-capita crime rate in Ventura County, with 10.65 crimes reported per 1,000 residents, compared with 16.31 in Thousand Oaks and 17.46 in Simi Valley.

``They're a little bit misleading,'' Millhouse said of the crime statistics. ``We don't like to see crime increase, but nobody should go into a panic.''

According to statistics released by the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, aggravated assaults increased in Moorpark by 33 percent, from 24 to 32 incidents, residential burglaries rose 4 percent, commercial burglaries increased 12 percent, grand thefts rose 74 percent, and petty theft reports increased by 39 percent.

City officials noted that the surge in grand theft reports coincided with the opening last year of the Moorpark Marketplace, and could be attributable to shoplifting arrests from stores such as Target and Kohl's.

Auto thefts decreased in Moorpark by 6 percent, and arson cases dropped from three in 2002 to two cases last year.

In Simi Valley, crime rates rose in all but one of eight categories, according to Police Department statistics.

Two homicides were committed in the city last year compared with none the year before.

Rapes increased 128 percent, from seven reports in 2002 to 16 last year, and robberies rose 73 percent, from 26 incidents in 2002 to 45 last year. Although crime rates have increased in Simi Valley and throughout the county, Simi Valley remains relatively crime-free, said Sgt. Joe May, a spokesman for the Simi Valley Police Department.

``While the percentages appear to be high, the number of incidents are very low,'' May said. ``Simi Valley is a very safe place to live and work.''

Burglaries increased by 31 percent, from 355 in 2002 to 466 last year, and car thefts rose 26 percent, from 163 two years ago to 205 last year.

Thefts increased by 9 percent, and arson cases rose 10 percent. The aggravated assault rate dipped 3 percent.

Violent crimes rose 8 percent last year in the area served by the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, including Moorpark, but overall crime rates remained relatively unchanged.

Homicides increased by 600 percent, from two in 2002 to 14 in 2003, according to statistics released March 4. Aggravated assaults rose 9 percent, to 477 last year, compared with 438 the year before.

Sheriff Bob Brooks attributed the increase to a surge in gang and drug activity throughout the county.

``When you have either victims or suspects involved in gangs or drugs, it definitely contributes to the problem,'' Brooks said. ``It certainly is the first place you look.''

Rape and robbery rates dropped slightly during the same period. Rape reports fell 4 percent, from 46 cases in 2002 to 44 cases last year. Robbery reports fell 2 percent, from 95 in 2002 to 93 last year.

The overall nonviolent crime rate was virtually unchanged. Arson increased 40 percent, from 72 cases in 2002 to 101 cases last year. Burglary reports rose 5 percent, and auto theft cases increased by 8 percent. Petty theft reports fell by 9 percent.

The Sheriff's Department provides contract police service to the cities of Moorpark, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Fillmore and Ojai and patrols the unincorporated areas of the county.

Andrea Cavanaugh, (805) 583-7602

andrea.cavanaugh(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Mar 14, 2004
Words:635
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