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May 27, 2011 > Homicide rate drops to 44-year low

Homicide rate drops to 44-year low

Submitted By the Office of the Attorney General

Figures released on May 24 by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris show the homicide rate in California fell during 2010 to reach the lowest level since 1966. Preliminary figures gathered by the Department of Justice from the state's largest jurisdictions show a year-on-year decline in reported homicides of 6 percent.

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

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

In 2010, property crimes declined 2.2 percent. Burglary dropped 0.9 percent. Motor vehicle theft declined 7.2 percent. Arson dropped 15 percent. Larceny under $400 fell 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. The 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.

One troubling note is the number of gang-related homicides between 2008 and 2009 increased 18 percent, accounting for almost 40 percent of all homicides in California where the contributing circumstances were reported.

The falling homicide rate was mirrored by the rates of other violent crimes which dropped in every category in 2009: robbery declined 8.6 percent; aggravated assault, 5.5 percent and rape, 3 percent.

The majority (70.5 percent) of homicides in 2009 in the state involved firearms. Gun deaths accounted for more than 84 percent of victims, ages 18 to 29, but just slightly more than 51 percent of victims aged over 40. Knives were used in 15.1 percent of 2009 homicides; hands and feet, 5.5 percent; clubs and other blunt objects, 5.3 percent; rope, drugs and all other weapons, 3.6 percent.

Thirty-five percent of 2009 homicides, where the contributing circumstances were reported, occurred because 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.

There were more Hispanic homicide victims than Caucasian, 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 (11.8 percent), and Napa County had the lowest (0.7 percent). Merced County had the second highest rate (10.1 percent).

The reports "Homicide in California 2009" and "Crime in California 2009" are available at

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