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Crime Drops But Fear of Crime Persists
By Jorge Casuso
December 26, 2019 -- Police reported crime dropped during the first nine months of the year, but the news didn't seem to make Santa Monica residents feel any safer.
The numbers showed that reports of serious crime dropped by 14.37 percent between January 1 and September 30, compared to the same period last year ("Crime Dropped in Santa Monica During First Nine Months of Year, Police Data Show," October 8, 2019).
But the numbers were countered by a series of sensational crimes that grabbed headlines. Two of this year's murders were a matricide and fratricide.
In February, a 42-year-old man was charged with the fatal stabbing of his mother and the stabbing of his father in their Sunset Park home ("Man Pleads Not Guilty of Stabbing Mother to Death in Santa Monica Home," February 20, 2019).
Six months later, a man fatally shot his 19-year-old brother, marking the year's second homicide ("Santa Monica Man Charged in Brother's Murder," August 28, 2019).
If those crimes were family affairs, others were totally random.
In the third homicide, a homeless man was beaten with a shovel in a Downtown alley ("'Random' Homeless Killing Marks City's Third Homicide This Year," October 29, 2019).
Last month, an elderly woman was brutally assaulted in Ocean Park, while this month, an elderly man was randomly assaulted near Reed Park ("Police Seek Additional Victims After Two Random Street Assaults on Elderly," December 10, 2019).
In her quarterly crime report posted in October, Police Chief Cynthia Renaud had acknowledged the impact of the high-profile cases on the public's persistent perception of crime.
"In the last month, Santa Monica has experienced a handful of unique and high-profile incidents that attracted media coverage and news helicopters," Renaud wrote.
The incidents included a bank robbery committed by a suspect dressed in a Day of the Dead mask and the police shooting of a suspected burglar who barricaded himself in a backyard with a gun ("Santa Monica Bank Robber at Large After Extensive Police Search," September 10, 2019 and "Suspected Burglar Hospitalized After Police-Involved Shooting," September 13, 2019).
The incidents came weeks after a security guard in an armored truck opened fire on a knife wielding suspect, sending panicked shoppers on the Promenade ducking for cover ("Suspects Arrested in Two Separate Santa Monica Robberies Thursday and Friday," August 16, 2019).
Sexual offenders also put Santa Monica on the crime map in 2019.
In March, six alleged victims of former City employee Eric Uller filed a claim against the City and the Police Activities League (PAL) charging that they failed to protect them as children from sexual abuse ("Six of Uller's Alleged Sex Abuse Victims File Claim Against City, PAL," March 13, 2019).
Other similar suits would follow, as would the high-profile arrest of a former Santa Monica medical director for felony possession of child pornography ("Former Santa Monica Medical Director Sentenced for Possession of Child Porn," September 23, 2019).
In fact, Santa Monica had 55 registered sex offenders, twice as many as in any other community on the Westside ("SPECIAL REPORT -- Santa Monica Tops List of Westside Cities with Most Registered Sex Offenders," October 4, 2019).
Old crimes also made news in 2019.
In October, two suspects were charged in the 2017 "party bus" shooting near the Santa Monica Pier that left a young woman dead and injured three others ("EXTRA -- Two Suspects Charged in 2017 Santa Monica 'Party Bus' Shooting," October 23, 2019).
Also in October, jurors took less than five hours to decide that Michael Gargiulo, known as the "Hollywood Ripper," should be put to death ("Jury Recommends Serial Killer Caught in Santa Monica Be Put to Death," October 21, 2019).
The jury had found Gargiulo guilty of murdering two women and attempting to murder a third in her Santa Monica apartment across the alley from his home ("Jury Finds Former Santa Monica Resident Guilty of Double Murder," August 16, 2019).
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