43 Years of Crime in the San Diego Region: 1980 Through 2022

About This Report

Since 1980, SANDAG has been reporting regional crime statistics for the San Diego region through a cooperative agreement with local law enforcement agencies. This report presents and discusses crime trend data for the past 43 years, highlighting crime rates per 1,000 residents and the actual number of crimes reported.[1]    
SANDAG is the only local entity to compile and analyze these statistics historically across the 18 incorporated cities and the unincorporated areas of the county, making this information some of the most frequently requested from the SANDAG Criminal Justice Clearinghouse. These data are useful to local law enforcement, policymakers, and the community in general for both tracking public safety trends over time and understanding the effectiveness of prevention and response efforts on regional crime rates.
When interpreting these annual figures, it is essential to note that because of changes in how rape is defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), comparisons across time for rape and violent crime overall should be made with caution. Specifically, in 2015, California law enforcement agencies began to use the revised and broader Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) definition of rape that includes male victims, sodomy, penetration with any body part or object, and no longer requires force. As a result of this change, some Part I crimes that previously would have been aggravated assaults are now rapes, and some Part II crimes that previously would not have been captured in these statistics are now Part I crimes. It is also important to note that this is the final year that this report will include crimes reported through the UCR program. The UCR program has transitioned to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). With this transition to NIBRS, the overall quality of crime data will improve as additional details of crime incidents will be collected, allowing for more timely and comprehensive data analysis. This federal transition means a state-level transition will be occurring; San Diego County law enforcement agencies are in the process of transitioning to the California Incident-Based Reporting System (CIBRS). All future SANDAG reports will include the new standardized data after the transition is completed this year.

Overall crime

There was a total of 64,354 Part I crimes in the San Diego region in 2022, which equated to 19.41 crimes per 1,000 population. Part I crimes include four violent offenses (homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) and three property offenses (burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft) that are tracked nationwide in a standardized manner by the FBI, with agencies submitting crime data through the UCR program. Other crimes, such as drug-related offenses, vandalism, and fraud, also are documented by local law enforcement as Part II crimes. However, because categorization schemes can vary across agencies, standardized numbers for Part II crimes are not available, even though these crimes may be sizeable in number and require substantial attention and resources from law enforcement.

Violent crime 

In 2022, there were 12,721 Part I violent crimes reported to law enforcement in the San Diego region, an increase of 2% from 2021.[2] The violent crime rate per 1,000 of 3.84 was also an increase of 2% from the 3.77 reported for 2021. These rates indicate that 1 in every 261 individuals was the victim of a violent crime reported to law enforcement in 2022 (not shown).
The most common type of violent crime in 2022 was aggravated assault, which represented over two-thirds (71%) of all violent crime; robbery represented 21%, rape 7%, and homicide 1%. According to statistics from the National Crime Victimization Survey,[3] 46% of violent crime was reported to law enforcement nationwide in 2021 (the most recent year available), including 22% of rapes, 60% of robberies, and 61% of aggravated assaults (not shown).
The violent crime rate (per 1,000 population) in the San Diego region increased in the later part of the 1980s, reaching a peak of 9.76 in 1992. Since then, it consistently declined, dropping to a 43-year low in 2014 (3.27) and then fluctuating somewhat, increasing to 3.84 in 2022. Across jurisdictions, the 2022 violent crime rate ranged from 0.49 in 4S Ranch to 6.26 in Lemon Grove.
Over the past year, nine jurisdictions saw a decreased violent crime rate (ranging from -2% in El Cajon to -21% in Encinitas) and twelve saw increases (ranging from <1% in Spring Valley to 36% in Ramona). It is important to note that four jurisdictions had numbers too small for valid comparisons.
Annual statistics through 2020 from the FBI (the most recent annual crime rate data available) were used to compare changes over time in the violent crime rate reported in the San Diego region to those reported across the United States. As shown below, the San Diego region experienced a greater rise in violent crime in the late 1980s and early 1990s compared to the nation, returning to a similar violent crime rate after 1998. This increase was possibly related to the prevalence of methamphetamine distribution and use and gang violence in the region during this time period. In 2020, the violent crime rate in the San Diego region was 3.46, versus 3.99 for the nation as a whole. In 2021 and 2022, the violent crime rate for the San Diego region slightly increased to 3.77 and 3.84, respectively, but still remained below the 2020 national average.

Homicide

Over the past 43 years, the number of homicides in the San Diego region peaked at 278 in 1991. This high was followed by a steady drop and some fluctuations that included a low of 67 in 2010. In 2022, there were a total of 107 homicides, which was 11 less than the 118 in 2021.
Most frequently, homicides took place in the victim’s residence (37%) or on a street or sidewalk (35%), and of the homicides with a known weapon, the most common weapon used was a firearm (60%). Most of the time, the suspect was known to the victim (59%). In 2022, motive could be determined for 84 of the 107 homicides by the time of this report. The most common motive was an argument (51%), followed by gang-related activity (15%). Other motives rounded out the remaining percentage and included child abuse, institutional murders, domestic violence, robbery, burglary, a lover’s triangle, money/financial, and other unknown reasons (not shown).

Rape

There were 942 rapes reported in the San Diego region in 2022, which is 134 less than 2021. The graph below shows that between 1980 and 2014 (when the legacy definition was in place) the number of reported rapes remained relatively stable, compared to the number of other types of violent crime during the same period of time. The number jumped to 1,100 in 2015, when the revised FBI definition of rape was changed to include male victims and a greater number of eligible actions, and reached a high of 1,162 in 2018. In 2022 the number of reported rapes represented a 12% decrease from 2021. In 2022, 93% of reported rapes were categorized as “completed,” rather than “attempted” (not shown).

Robbery

Over the past 43 years, the number of robberies began an upward trend in 1984, which peaked at 8,554 in 1992. Since then, there has been a general decline, with some leveling off and fluctuations. There were 2,669 robberies reported in the region in 2022, an increase of 10% from 2021. Compared to 2021, there were seven consecutive months (March through September) in 2022 with increases in robberies, and overall, there were more robberies in nine of the twelve months, with the only decreases in 2022 occurring in February, October, and December (not shown).
As part of standardized UCR reporting requirements, the type of weapon used during a robbery and the location of the robbery are documented. In 2022, the majority of weapons used during robberies (56%) were considered strong-arm (committed with a threat of force or intimidation that usually does not involve a weapon), followed by 17% that included weapons categorized as other (e.g., bat, stick, or other blunt object), 15% involving a firearm, and 13% a knife or other cutting instrument. The percentage of robberies involving firearms decreased by 3% in the past year, while the robberies that included the use of other weapons, strong-arm, and involving knives/other cutting weapons increased by 1% each (not shown).
In 2022, 46% of robberies occurred in commercial establishments; 36% out in the, open, on streets, or in other public places; 9% in other locations (which include wooded areas, churches, schools, and other public buildings); 7% in residences; and 2% in banks. Compared to the past year, there was a higher percentage of robberies in other locations (3%), businesses (2%), and banks (1%), and fewer in the open (-5%) (not shown). There was no change in the percentage of residential robberies.
For the 13 jurisdictions with robbery numbers large enough for comparison, 10 had increases (ranging from 3% in Oceanside to 45% in San Marcos), two had decreases, (Escondido, 5% and Vista, 11%) and one (Santee) saw no change.

Aggravated assault

Over the past 43 years, the number of aggravated assaults followed an upward trend from 1985 that peaked in 1994 (15,406). This overall increase was due at least in part to 1986 legislation requiring law enforcement agencies to report all domestic violence incidents. Since 1994, these numbers have generally declined, including in 2015 with the change in the rape definition.[4] However, 2022 saw the seventh consecutive increase, bringing the number of assaults up to 9,003, the largest number since 2004.[5]
Like robbery, the type of weapon used in aggravated assaults is documented for reporting purposes. In 2022, 35% of aggravated assaults involved the use of a weapon labeled as ‘other’ (e.g., bat, stick, or other blunt object); 33% hands, feet, or fists; 19% a knife or other cutting instrument; and 13% a firearm. Compared to 2021, there were decreases in the percentage of assaults that involved firearms and other types of weapons (-4% and -1%, respectively), increases in the percentage involving hands, feet, or fists (5%), and there was no percent change in the aggravated assaults involving a knife or other cutting instrument (not shown).
For the 21 jurisdictions with numbers large enough to compare, 11 experienced a one- year decrease in the number of reported aggravated assaults (ranging from -1% in Spring Valley to -26% in National City) and 10 experienced an increase (ranging from 1% in San Diego to 59% in Ramona).

Violent crimes against senior citizens

Due to the increased vulnerability of the elderly community, each jurisdiction voluntarily documents violent crimes committed against senior citizens (defined as individuals 60 years of age and older). In 2022, there were 1,224 violent crimes against senior citizens, an increase of 8% from the previous year. Of the ten reporting agencies, only seven had numbers large enough to compare over time, with five reporting one-year increases (ranging from 7% in El Cajon to 41% in Oceanside), San Diego reporting a decrease of 4%, and National
City reporting no change (not shown).
Of the 1,224 crimes committed against senior citizens, 20 were homicides, 34 rapes, 243 robberies, and 927 aggravated assaults. There were increases across all crime types, with the largest increase being in homicides; the senior citizen homicide rate doubled from the 10 that was reported in 2021 to 20 in 2022 (not shown).

Property crime

The 2022 property crime rate, per 1,000 residents, of 15.57 was 5% lower than in 2021 and is the second lowest in the past 43 years, following the 14.86 rate seen in 2020. With 51,633 property crimes reported in 2022, 1 in every 64 residents was the victim of a reported property crime (not shown). According to statistics from the 2021 (the most recent year available) National Crime Victimization Survey,[6] 31% of property crime nationwide was reported to law enforcement, including 41% of burglaries, 77% of motor vehicle thefts, and 26% of other thefts.
Most crime (80%) reported to local law enforcement represents property offenses. Of the reported property crimes, 64% were larcenies, 22% motor vehicle thefts, and 14% burglaries (not shown). Across the region, the 2022 property crime rates per 1,000 residents ranged from 4.54 in Ramona to 27.24 in Del Mar.[7] Eleven jurisdictions had a higher property crime rate in 2022 compared to 2021 (ranging from <1% in Oceanside to 32% in Del Mar) and 13 had a lower rate (ranging from -1% in Encinitas to -29% in Valley Center). When interpreting these statistics, it is important to note that a variety of factors can affect a jurisdiction’s crime rate, such as daytime population and accessibility.
In terms of dollar value, over $304 million worth of property was stolen in the San Diego region in 2022, which equates to around $833,000 on average per day. This amount reflects a 24% increase from the estimated $244 million stolen in 2021. Twenty-seven percent (27%) of this property, which was valued at almost $82 million, was recovered in 2022, compared to the 34% and almost $84 million recovered in 2021.
The graph below compares property crimes reported to law enforcement in the San Diego region to national statistics from 1980 through 2020 (the most recent annual rate available). In 1980, the San Diego region had a higher property crime rate compared to the U.S. overall. The local property crime rate began to decline in the early 1990s, falling and remaining below the national average since 1995. In 2020, the property crime rate for the region was 14.86, compared to 19.58 for the nation. In 2021 and 2022, the property crime rate for the San Diego region slightly increased to 16.32 and 15.57, respectively, but still remained below the 2020 national average.
Additional analyses of property crime data from nine other metropolitan cities in the U.S. with populations of 500,000 or more revealed that four had fewer property crimes reported in 2022, compared to 2021, and six had more. Compared to the cities that also saw decreases in the past, San Diego had the lowest decrease at -5%.

Burglary

Burglary is the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft. The number of burglaries (including residential and non-residential) reported in the region declined between 1980 and 1984 and then began an upward trend, reaching 35,233 in 1988. Three years later, an eight-year decline began, which was followed by a small number of increases, and then a general decline. The 7,359 reported burglaries in 2022 represented a 3% increase from the 7,173 reported in 2021 and is the first increase in burglaries in the past ten years. In 2022, three in five (60%) burglaries were categorized as forced entry, 36% as non-forced entry, and 4% as attempted/unsuccessful (not shown). It is important to note that within the past five years, the percentage of forced entry burglaries has consistently increased, from 41% in 2018 to 60% in 2022.
Of the 7,359 burglaries reported in the San Diego region in 2022, 41% were residential, which equates to 1 in every 382 households being burglarized – five years ago this ratio was 1 in every 243. Over the past year, the number of residential burglaries decreased by 6% (from 3,233 in 2021 to 3,037 in 2022), while the number of non-residential burglaries increased by 10% (3,940 in 2021 to 4,322 in 2022) (not shown). Over the past year, 13 jurisdictions reported one-year decreases in the number of burglaries (ranging from -1% in Encinitas to -46% in Coronado) and 9 had increases (from 6% in Carlsbad to 41% in National City).

Larceny

Larceny, or theft, is the most common crime, with 1 in every 101 residents being a victim in 2022 (not shown). In the early 1980s, the number of larcenies fluctuated; but beginning in 1985, the number of larcenies began an upward trend, peaking at 85,448 in 1989, and then decreasing to a low in 2000. Since then, there have been increases and decreases, including an 8% decrease from 2021 (35,767) to 2022 (32,914). This decrease was substantial, making the 2022 number the second lowest in the past 43 years; the 2022 value is only trailing behind the 43-year low (32,865) in 2020 by 49 incidents. Compared to 2021, larceny rates in 2022 decreased for nine consecutive months (April through December) with the highest decrease being in September (-18%) (not shown).
The most common larceny type (historically and in 2022) was theft from motor vehicles (34%), with the second most common being from buildings (27%), other (12%), and shoplifting (11%). Aside from the percentage of thefts from motor vehicles (which decreased by 7%) and bicycle thefts (which remained at the same rate), all other types of larcenies increased over the past year (buildings 3%, other 2%, shoplifting 2%, and motor vehicle parts 1%). Forty-three percent (43%) of larcenies in 2022 were petty thefts involving property valued at $400 or less (not shown).[8] Across the region, 14 jurisdictions reported an annual decrease (ranging from <-1% in Chula Vista to -35% in Valley Center) and 11 reported increases in the number of larcenies (ranging from <1% in Spring Valley to 23% in Poway).

Motor vehicle theft

The graph below shows the number of motor vehicle thefts in the region for the past 43 years. Starting in 1983, the number of motor vehicles stolen in the San Diego region increased annually, reaching a high in 1989 of 40,897. Similar to the other property crimes, this upward trend was followed by short periods of increases and decreases, and then a decline to the low of 9,325 in 2020. Since then, there have been fluctuations, with an increase of 2% this past year, from 11,154 in 2021 to 11,360 in 2022. Looking at month-to-month data in 2022 and 2021, there were more vehicles stolen in 8 of the 12 months in 2022, with seven consecutive months of increases occurring from February through August (not shown).  The 2022 number equates to 1 in every 251 registered motor vehicles being stolen. In terms of dollar amount, the value of these stolen vehicles was estimated at around $139.90 million, representing 46% of the total value of property stolen in 2022 (not shown).
Across the 21 jurisdictions with more than 30 incidents of motor vehicle theft reported in 2021 and 2022, 11 reported one-year decreases (ranging from -2% in San Marcos to -28% in Valley Center) and 10 reported increases (ranging from 1% in Escondido to 25% in Lemon Grove).

Arson

Unlike other FBI Index offenses, when arson is committed in concert with another FBI Index offense, both incidents must be reported, which is why arson is presented separately from other property crime statistics. There were 547 arsons reported in 2022, which was a 20% increase from the 454 reported in 2021. Twenty-four percent (24%) of arsons in 2022 were structures and 76% were categorized as mobile and other non-structural property types (not shown).

Domestic violence

Law enforcement agencies also track domestic violence incidents, some of which are included in the previously reported numbers in this bulletin. For example, a domestic violence incident could include a Part I violent crime (e.g., aggravated assault) or some type of property crime (e.g., burglary). Since 1986, when mandatory reporting was enacted, the number of domestic violence incidents has varied from 11,414 in that year to a high of 29,306 in 1994. In 2022, a total of 17,472 incidents were reported to law enforcement, a 4% decrease from 2021.
Across the jurisdictions (with large enough numbers to compare), 12 reported one- year decreases in the number of domestic violence incidents (ranging from <-1% in Chula Vista to -31% in Encinitas) and 6 reported increases (ranging from 2% in Vista to 10% in Escondido and La Mesa).

Overall crime

The San Diego region reported 64,354 Part I crimes in 2022, which equates to 19.41 crimes per 1,000 population. Part I crimes include four violent offenses (homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) and three property offenses (burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft) that are tracked nationwide in a standardized manner by the FBI, with agencies submitting crime data through the UCR system. Other crimes, such as drug-related offenses, vandalism, and fraud, also are documented by local law enforcement as Part II crimes. However, because categorization schemes can vary across agencies, standardized numbers for Part II crimes are not available, even though these crimes may be sizeable in number and require substantial attention and resources from law enforcement.

Hate crimes

As part of the California Penal Code (PC), the Attorney General is required to submit an annual report to the Legislature regarding crimes motivated by a victim’s race/ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or physical or mental disability. According to the California PC, a hate crime is a criminal act committed in whole or in part because of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim. Thus, hate crimes are not separate, distinct crimes, but rather traditional offenses specifically motivated by the offender’s bias.
Beginning in 2008, local law enforcement agencies began sharing hate crime reports that were submitted to the state with SANDAG to allow for a more detailed analysis of San Diego County crimes (these details were not available in the state report). In 2022, a total of 86 hate crime events were reported by law enforcement across the region, which included a total of 108 victims and 82 known suspects. Compared to last year, the number of events increased by 6%.
In 2022, hate crimes were reported by police departments in Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Coronado, El Cajon, Escondido, National City, Oceanside, and San Diego; the Sheriff’s Department (for the jurisdictions of Encinitas, Fallbrook, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach, Vista, and other unincorporated areas); the Harbor Police; and the San Diego State University Police Department(not shown).
Other hate crime information compiled for this summary includes the following:
  • Of the 86 reported events, 64% appeared to be motivated by race, ethnicity, or national origin; 22% by sexual orientation; 13% by religion; and 1% by disability; this year, no reported hate crimes appeared to be motivated by gender. Of the 55 incidents related to the victim’s actual or perceived race/ethnicity/national origin, 45% of bias motivation was described as being anti-Black, 20% anti-Hispanic, 9% anti-Asian, 9% anti-other, 5% anti-multiple races, 5% anti-White, 4% anti-Arab, and 2% were related to one’s nationality.
  • Of the 86 events where a victim description was available, the type of victim was an individual (or multiple individuals) in 83% of cases, a business 9% of the time, a religious organization 5%, and the government 4%. Of the victims who had their gender documented (88), sixty-six percent (66%) were male.
  • Of the 86 events where the location was noted, 22% occurred on a highway, road, alley, or street; 15% at a residence, home, or driveway; 14% at a business; 12% at a school or college; 10% in a parking lot or garage; 8% in an outdoor location; 6% somewhere else; 3% at a church, synagogue, or temple; 3% at a government or public building; 2% in a jail or prison; and 1% at an air or bus terminal.
  • Of the 95 documented offenses (there can be multiple offenses for one event), 76% were described as violent, which included 27 simple assaults, 18 acts of intimidation, and 23 aggravated assaults. The rest of the hate crimes were property-related (24%) and included 23 incidents of destruction or damaging of property in some way, including vandalism.

Clearance rates

A crime can be cleared for reporting purposes when at least one person is arrested or there are “exceptional means” (e.g., offender’s death, extradition, etc.).[9] The clearance rates in 2022 varied by crime type, with violent crimes cleared more frequently than property crimes. Overall, 46% of violent crimes that were open for investigation in the region were cleared (with a range across jurisdictions of 34% in Chula Vista to 82% in Ramona), compared to 9% of property crimes (with a range of 5% in Chula Vista to 32% in Santee).
As the chart shows, homicide and aggravated assault had the highest clearance rates (84% and 51%, respectively), which may be due to the fact that these crimes receive maximum resources given the seriousness of the crime and for assault involve individuals with face-to- face contact who also may already know one another. While the motor vehicle theft clearance rate is the lowest of the seven Part I crimes, it is important to note that the vehicle recovery rate is considerably higher (not shown).[10]

Summary

In 2022 in the San Diego Region, there was a total of 64,354 Part I crimes. This equates to 19.41 crimes per 1,000 residents.
The violent crime rate for the San Diego region was 2% higher than it was in 2021. Homicides and rapes decreased this year, but robberies and assaults increased.
The property crime rate for the region decreased 5% in the past year and is the second lowest rate of the past 43 years. There were increases in the number of burglaries and motor vehicle thefts but decreases in the number of larcenies.

Footnotes

[1]2021 population estimates were used because 2022 estimates were not available at the time of this publication. The populations used to calculate rates are provided in Appendix Table 20 in the full report.
[2]The number of violent crimes reported in each jurisdiction for 2018 through 2022 is presented in Appendix Tables 10 through 14 in the full report.
[3]Thompson, A. & Tapp, S.N. (2022). Criminal Victimization, 2021 (NCJ 305101). Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
[4]It is important to note that following the implementation of the revised UCR definition of rape in 2015, some Part I crimes that previously would have been aggravated assaults are now categorized as rapes. This change in categorization may have impacted the declining pattern seen in the reported number of aggravated assaults after 2015.
[5]In 2022, there were around two and a half simple assaults for every reported aggravated assault (for a total of 22,148 simple assaults). Simple assault, which is not counted as a Part I crime, includes all assaults and attempted assaults which are not of an aggravated nature and do not result in serious injury to the victim. The number of simple assaults reported in 2022 represented a 2% increase from 2021.
[6] - Thompson, A. & Tapp, S.N. (2022). Criminal Victimization, 2021 (NCJ 305101). Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
[7] - The numbers of property crimes reported in each jurisdiction for 2017 through 2022 are also presented in Appendix Tables 10 through 14 in the full table.
[8] - It is important to note that Coronado Police Department (CPD) transitioned to CIBRS reporting in August 2021, and as a result their larceny category for $200 and over is included and reflected in this report as $400 and over.
[9] - It is important to note that a crime can occur in one calendar year but be cleared in that year or a future year.
[10] - Motor vehicles represented 46% of stolen property in terms of dollar value, but 91% of the value of recovered property in 2022.
Sources: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Justice Statistics, California Department of Finance, SANDAG, SANDAG Vintage Population Estimates (2020)