Encinitas violent crimes increase by 58 percent in first half of year

The Encinitas sign on South Coast Highway 101 near the historic La Paloma Theater.
The Encinitas sign on South Coast Highway 101 near the historic La Paloma Theater.

(Charlie Neuman)

Property crime rates, up 17 percent, were impacted by pandemic shutdowns


Violent crime in Encinitas soared by 58 percent in the first half of this year and property crimes increased by 17 percent, but those statistics are a bit misleading, Sheriff’s Capt. Herb Taft told the City Council Wednesday night, Oct. 14.

“We are not being overwhelmed by criminals,” said Taft, the head of the county’s North Coastal Sheriff’s Station.

Compiled by the San Diego Association of Governments on a regional basis, the crime report includes data on seven types of criminal activity split into two categories. The first category is violent crimes — homicides, rapes, robbery and aggravated assault. The second contains property crimes — burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

When it comes to violent crimes, Encinitas had 60 cases in the first six months of this year, up from 38 during the same period a year ago.

“Just on the surface, that doesn’t look good,” Taft admitted, but added that people need to realize that most of those were robberies and aggravated assaults, not homicides.

There were 41 aggravated assaults, or incidents when someone injured someone else, up from last year’s figure of 30. There were 15 robberies, compared to five a year earlier. However, people need to understand that one incident can result in multiple aggravated assaults being listed in the crime report, Taft said. For example, he said, the intoxicated man who drove onto a downtown sidewalk and hit three people in early March shows up as multiple assault cases because more than one person was injured, he noted. A road rage incident where an angry driver hit another vehicle with three occupants also created multiple assault listings in the report, he said.

“It’s not that violent crime is out of control; you had a few more victims,” he said.

Eight of the 15 robberies were shoplifting incidents that involved physical force, times when the shoplifter shoved or pushed someone during the get-away, Taft said. One was a bank robbery. And, he added, 80 percent of the individuals involved in these incidents have been arrested.

Council members asked if any of the assaults were related to conflicts at various community rallies and other events since the coronavirus pandemic began, including the Reopen Encinitas and Black Lives Matter events. Taft said there have been conflicts between people on opposing sides of issues, but those incidents didn’t rise to the level of aggravated assaults.

Where the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is evident is in the property crimes category, he said. There were 332 property crimes in Encinitas in the first six months this year compared to 283 for the same period a year ago. Most of them were theft cases — 240 in the first six months of this year, verses 202 last year.

Unlike neighboring Del Mar and Solana Beach, Encinitas had a number of large stores, including Walmart and Home Depot, that were deemed “essential services,” and thus were allowed to remain open during the pandemic shutdown period last spring, and shoplifting criminals targeted those places, Taft said.

The city also saw an increase in thefts of catalytic converters on vehicles, particularly Ford trucks and Prius vehicles, he said. And, there was a rash of bike thefts, many of them committed by one individual, he said.

Burglaries also increased during the first six months of the year. There were 67 in the first half of this year, compared to 46 for the same period last year. Burglars targeted the shops and other businesses that were forced to close during the shutdown, Taft said, adding that as places began reopening, burglary reports decreased.

— Barbara Henry is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune