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Police: Crime stats not representative to city

The Healthy Places, Healthy People 2012 study was done in collaboration with county and state agencies and ranks Orange County cities in various categories.

August 02, 2012|By Joanna Clay

Laguna Beach police contend that crime statistics in a recent health study don't add up.

The Healthy Places, Healthy People 2012 report pegs Laguna with one of the highest crime rates — 358 violent crimes reported in 2009 — out of 100,000 residents.

Those figures aren't necessarily a true picture, Lt. Jason Kravetz said.

Since Laguna Beach had a population of 24,017 in 2009, writers of the study had to multiply the number of violent crimes by four, he said.

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"I don't think this type of statistical analysis is an accurate portrayal of criminal activity in smaller communities," Kravetz wrote in an email. "The fact that our residential population had to be quadrupled in order to come up with this hypothetical statistic doesn't present an accurate picture."

The 84-page study, which was done in collaboration with county and state agencies, ranks Orange County cities in categories such as life expectancy, commute time and other aspects that affect a person's everyday health.

Laguna Beach is a unique case. It has a high number of tourists and visitors who come to the city for its nightlife and beaches, then possibly stay for a few days and ultimately inflate violent crime reports, Kravetz said. That produces a number that isn't truly reflective of the city's residents, he contended, especially when on summer days, the city's population can triple.

Vehicle-related pedestrian injuries in the city were double that of some other cities in the report. Laguna Beach had 70 injuries or deaths per 100,000 residents, compared to 43 in neighboring Newport Beach and seven in Aliso Viejo.

Kravetz said most pedestrian collisions happen during the summer, when hotels are at capacity and the streets are packed.

Laguna Beach has been creative in its attempt to protect pedestrians, he said. In the 1980s, the city used a flag system where people would take a flag from one side and leave it on the other side. In the '90s, Caltrans installed street lighting and warning signs.

Most recently the city got state grants to do pedestrian decoy operations, where officers dress up in funny outfits and cross the streets with pedestrians to bring attention to safety.

Another category Laguna ranked high in: alcohol outlet density, which measures the number of places available to purchase alcohol. Laguna topped the report, with 4.5 outlets per 1,000 residents.

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