Is the number of thefts from cars in West Hollywood unusual?
In an earlier report, we found that the number of violent crimes had dropped to its second-lowest level in the city’s history, but that the number of property crimes had reached a 19-year high. It was due in part to thefts from vehicles. That made us wonder if the current level of thefts from vehicles is unusual.
We have two sets of numbers. The first set counts thefts from vehicles, with or without forced entry. The second set counts only vehicle burglaries, which involve forced entry. For the purposes of this report, we’ll treat vehicle burglaries as a subset of thefts from vehicles.
West Hollywood’s current level of thefts from vehicles is unusual in historical terms. The city had 600 reported thefts from vehicles in 2017. That was the highest level since 1996. It was double the all-time low of roughly 300, which was achieved only two years before.
We see the same pattern if we look only at vehicle burglaries. The city had almost 500 in 2017. That was more than double the relative low two years earlier.
We have more detailed data on vehicle burglaries going back four years. The chart below shows the monthly counts along with a 12-month rolling average. The most recent month, July 2018, had 90 reported vehicle burglaries. Prior to that, the high was 59.
The rolling average is clearly higher now than it was in prior years. It has stayed above 40 throughout 2018.
Unusual based on one-year increase?
West Hollywood’s recent increase in thefts from vehicles was unusual compared to many cities, but not so unusual when compared to Culver City, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica. In 2017, the county as a whole had almost no increase, but the Westside cities all did. They were in the top quarter of cities in the county based on their percentage increases.
West Hollywood and Culver City both had one-year increases of about 50%. Only one city in the county, Walnut, had a bigger one-year percentage increase than West Hollywood and Culver City. We’re not counting cities with a handful of thefts.
Beverly Hills and Santa Monica saw smaller but still significant increases of about 30% and 20%, respectively. The numbers for the City of Los Angeles rose a bit less than 10%.
Unusual based on 10-year increase?
Over a 10-year period, West Hollywood’s percentage increase of about 50% was still high compared to many cities. However, it was lower than Culver City, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and 10 other cities in the county.
The City of Bell had the biggest jump in the county at 280%. Culver City was second with roughly 160%. Beverly Hills came in fifth with an increase of about 100%. Santa Monica was ninth at 60% or so. The county as a whole saw a decline of more than 10%. Los Angeles had a drop of roughly 25%.
Unusual per capita?
We need a metric to compare the level of thefts from vehicles in West Hollywood to other communities. The easiest one to calculate is the number of reported thefts from vehicles per 1,000 residents.
West Hollywood had 17 thefts from vehicles per 1,000 residents in 2017. That was unusually high compared to most cities in the county. Only one city with at least 10,000 residents — Commerce — had a higher rate.
Three of the other Westside cities had rates almost as high as West Hollywood’s. Beverly Hills was ranked just below West Hollywood, with 16 thefts per 1,000 residents. Santa Monica and Culver had 15 thefts.
The City of Los Angeles as a whole had only 5 thefts per 1,000 residents. However, the available numbers suggest that the theft rate is higher in neighborhoods adjacent to West Hollywood. We estimate 21 thefts per 1,000 residents in the Fairfax District and 15 in Hollywood and Beverly Grove. That would put Fairfax’s rate well above West Hollywood’s, while Hollywood and Beverly Grove have rates similar to the other Westside cities.
Unusual by other metrics?
Thefts per capita is an imperfect metric. It counts all thefts from vehicles in the numerator, including thefts from vehicles owned by workers and visitors. Yet, the denominator counts only residents, not workers or visitors, and it counts them regardless of whether they own a car.
We don’t have the data to create a perfect metric, so we experimented with alternatives. We found that:
- West Hollywood ranked fairly high statewide, regardless of the metric
- Beverly Hills, Culver City, and Santa Monica moved down the rankings
- Bay Area cities tended to dominate the top of the list and San Francisco was at or near the top regardless of the metric
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