Examining Ocean Beach Crime Rates

by on October 30, 2012 · 16 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, Health, History, Life Events, Ocean Beach

Look vaguely familiar? OB’s darkside?

WTF, OB? Another Sex Crime?

We’ve had another sex crime in OB! Another woman was groped but this time the pervert was inside her home, creeping around at 5:45AM Sunday. The woman had to push the man away, running and locking herself inside her bathroom to call police. The suspected attacker was discovered by police afterwards in the victim’s backyard, and the Latino male adult with dark skin and bald head is being held on suspicion of sexual assault.

Police are interested in learning if the suspect is also responsible for other recent assaults. SDPD have not yet released the name of their prime suspect but many are concerned for this woman’s well being, along with other victims.  (Editor’s note: none of the other assailants have been described as “Latino”.)

This recent incident will have many more OBceans further contemplating, WTF Ocean Beach? Why do these types of crimes seem peculiar to OB? Is it somehow part of a predominant, local crime mix?

To attempt an answer, we’ll examine crime data from two online systems, ARJIS.org and crimemapping.com.

Is crime rising in OB? Is it rooted in OB’s dark side?

Sex Crime (SC) and Violent Crime (VC) statistics have spiked in OB. Stabbings, rapes, assaults, robbery . . . the list goes on. But even one of these crimes is too much for our little town. Some are connecting these increases to an even darker rooted, deeper-seated history of OB, as some bloggers have suggested OB is a designated combat zone. But that’s an old, old topic – perhaps one for another day.

Some cops will admit, and most residents know how OB attracts a peculiar mix of criminal activity. Broad-based crime maps show greater San Diego is rife with ALL forms of crime. Yet, OB crimes seem more alcohol/drug and car thefts related, combined with sex crimes, smuggling and dark kinda’ stuff.

As strange consolation, OB’s weirdness sees fewer gun crimes and other serious crimes, such as murder – Thankfully! – But what are the facts behind OB crime? Certainly, we have more than our fair share.

OB Crime Watch Facebook Page

Concerned OBceans are looking to prevent local crime, like this recent break-in and groper. Others are asked to join the grass roots crime watch effort, encouraging each of us to take time to be involved, and learn from the OB Citizens Patrol and the “OB Crime Watch” Facebook page. For example, a similar call went out from police to OBceans after the recent daytime attack of a young woman on Ocean Front in south OB.

These concerned OBceans are addressing the issue through prevention efforts, raising awareness where crimes of opportunity can occur, reading about current OB issues and crime-sensitive areas, or helping to pass out flyers along with other volunteers.

The ultimate goal is to ensure awareness prevails among OBceans, and community efforts result in safety and security where fewer people fall prey to attacks, and fewer crimes in OB.

Another point we are learning are the types of crimes being reported within our community to account for what, where and how crimes are being perpetrated. General trends and crime statistics are easy to obtain online, but most violent or peculiar cases require detailed data and information which is not readily available to the public. We’ll examine simple internet tools for evaluating local crime data.

How vulnerable are we? Community awareness efforts are key

As Sunday’s attack demonstrates, the ultimate safety issues center around protecting our families, neighbors, parks and neighborhoods, schools and communities. But it’s more than that.

Anyone walking heads-down and immersed in a cell phone text message is vulnerable to being attacked, as assault, robbery and theft statistics tend to support. Beyond the obvious requirements, people should reach out at these heightened moments and during quiet periods to discuss problems with local community members. Learn how best to report suspicious crime activity and prevent basic crimes of opportunity in our own areas and surroundings.

What are we preventing?

All recent sex crimes are shocking and highly visible, deserving our heightened attentions. Crimes of opportunity range from petty theft, peeping toms, as well as burglary, assault, robbery and rape, among others. OB seems most vulnerable to these types of crimes, including residential, auto, business thefts, and alcohol/drug related incidents.

Obviously, we must maintain a secure setting at home and in the office, understanding short and long-term precautions against theft and other criminal intentions. Join the OB Crime Watch group to learn about new sources of information, especially if you are unsure of where to begin for your own home or apartment safety and security.

Visual trends and crime data collected over time

Visual trends and crime data collected over time can be examined using online websites, such as ARJIS.org and crimemapping.com. It’s not a surprise to confirm obvious associations, and the scatter pattern shown on long-term crime maps provides a clear visual demonstration of  OB’s hot-zones. Crime maps built from data collected over extended periods can be used to expose hot-spots and other crime trends.

No surprises! OB Crime is centered around Newport Avenue

Examining the crime map image from crimemapping.com and using online tools, the scatter pattern of crime incidents becomes obvious, and when combined with the varying crime density, the maps clearly indicate Newport Avenue as a hot zone, among other hot spots. Obvious, too, is the crime “spill-over”, as incidents are scattered across the map. Incidents fade and decrease the farther away you move from the bar-zone.

6 Day Snapshot – OB crime map data, above, shows wide range of local crimes between 10/20 to 10/26, 2012

This www.crimemapping.com map dynamically displays crime data. As shown here data was collected over ten months, including the recent Octoberfest. This crime map demonstrates how incidents spill outwards from Newport Ave and Dog Beach.

Data points for OB crime maps

For the area shown, 795 crimes were reported in OB for the 10+ month period, scattered in a pattern which over-flows from Newport Avenue and areas surrounding North Ocean Beach. Drilling down for each icon on the map reveals several crime hot-spots.

Crime maps are visual tools, revealing dark spots growing along Newport Ave and the surrounding area and streets. Not shown here, but available on any OB crime map during the week of Oktoberfest, increased crimes are clearly associated with bar-zones around OB.

The online crime map is dynamic and reveals hot-spots when measured over time or during specific time periods. In general, fewer crimes appear on the map the farther you go away from the hot zones surrounding Newport Avenue. Zooming in or out, and focusing on different areas of OB, the crime map consistently shows a decreasing crime pattern extending away from Newport towards the south-east of OB, as shown on both short-term and longer-term crime maps.

Conversely, when viewing the OB map from the edges and neighborhoods, crimes increase steadily as you focus on areas surrounding Newport Avenue, and when focusing towards North OB (throughout the DMZ).

Hot spots

Looking more at the hotspots, the Sex Crimes (SC) jump off the map, as even a single SC is one too many.

  • Obvious hot spots have overlapping icons and appear in black for high density areas. Notice the values 42, 25 and 23 incidents, as shown on specific black icons.
  • Incidents appear solidly along the west end of Newport Avenue, as well as in parallel with Santa Monica and Saratoga forming a most-active OB crime zone.
  • The cove at the end of Santa Cruz is a hot spot for summer partiers, and this area is constantly under police unit surveillance, a fact which results in many further offenses being reported. The vast majority of crimes are alcohol and drug related incidents. For example, of all hot-spots in OB, the 5000 Block of Santa Cruz is the single biggest crime area in OB showing 42 crimes since Jan 2012 at that single location, and with 41 drugs/alcohol violations reported, plus 1 for vandalism under $450.
  • Vehicle thefts or break-ins are obvious statistics to consider, too. These maps have a visual impact, confirming what some OBceans have already suggested how vehicle thefts and break-ins are occurring in greater numbers around OB. The fact is that vehicle thefts and break-ins appear rampant on most crime maps! Stolen cars and break-ins are scattered around the OB crime maps, and for the city at large.

Limitations: Online tools, crime data, patrols

For any given crime, without actual witness testimony to guide the investigation and reporting, the online tools and facebook pages allow us barely a glimpse down the path of a fact finding mission.

Fact: Unless we can locate witnesses to each of the recent sex crimes, the attackers are likely to go free. It is difficult to prevent crime, let alone obtain solid convictions without witnesses.

In contrast, it is unlikely, too, how any citizen patrol efforts would have prevented the recent OB stabbings, assaults or the recent groper. Recall, the stabbings were reported on Newport and at the Pier, but not witnessed by our own scouts who were on patrol in the area each night throughout Octoberfest.

Detailed information missing from online tools

Online tools lack the important background information and other details, such as status updates or lab analysis and test results. Pending status changes could take months before they are reflected online, if at all.

At the same time, public crime reports and other forms of data can reveal hot-spots and trends, when events are charted over time. Regarding the obvious trends, the picture for OB won’t surprise you.

6 Day Snapshot – OB crime map data, above, shows wide range of local crimes between 10/20 to 10/26, 2012

Alcohol and Drug Related, DUI – #1 offenses on most crime maps

One hot category for OB and San Diego includes alcohol and drug related crimes. Notice the lavender needle appears on maps and reports. The needle icon is ominously dispersed across OB city limits and around the city and seems too easy to spot on any crime map.

Again, the OB list of crimes is wide-ranging, including a large number of overall crime categories but clearly alcohol and drug crimes persist, and these incidents make up a majority of OB crime.

Total Violent Crime for all SDPD was lower for August 2012 compared to August 2011

The total number of Violent Crimes reported to SDPD was slightly lower for August 2012 than for August 2011. As per the Automated Regional Justice Information System (ARJIS), statistics for total violent crimes reported include 443 reported for August 2012, slightly lower than the 479 incidents reported for August 2011.

OB Crime as part of total, overall San Diego Crime Statistics

As a comparison against city-wide statistics, 479 violent crimes were reported across San Diego for August 2011 while for Ocean Beach the total number of violent crimes (Total VC) reported was at 13. OB’s violent crimes dropped slightly for August 2012, down to 10 incidents from the previous year. For the city at-large, SDPD reports show the same downward trend with 443 violent crimes for August 2012.

Total SDPD reported Crime for Ocean Beach August 2012 and 2011

As the next two tables show, the total crime index for OB is lower at 49 for 2012 compared to 54 for 2011.

Crime Prevention

Crime activity infringes upon our peace and freedom, and this is no way suggesting any blame be placed on a victim of an attack, but crime prevention is crucial. Crimes of Opportunity are still considered most common, and so to engage in effective prevention these types of crimes are a likely candidate to address in any local crime awareness campaign.

OBceans know of too many reports which continue to surface where lone women are out late at night. Instances which appear these lone individuals may be unaware of their surroundings and potential safety issues. So, please consider joining grass roots efforts to increase awareness of the facts among everyone. Addressing a need of better communication with our families, friends and neighbors, as awareness is a huge part of successful crime prevention.

Should we be thankful for what’s NOT shown on these OB crime maps?

As stated by many, OB attracts a peculiar sort of criminal behavior, not pretty either! At the same time, we lack some of the harshest crimes I’ve been hearing about while researching and learning about crime statistics and reports. Even listening occasionally to late-night scanner traffic, and observing dynamic crime maps from around the city.

Assuredly, we will continue investigating OB crime activity, especially as the September data becomes available. Furthermore, talk of OB crime zones or combat zones, and other theories abound and which will be examined more closely, too. In the mean time, we are somewhat thankful for the fact the OB map shows far fewer “gun icons”, and other violent crimes we can easily do without!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

chris dotson October 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm

sorry, but the images do not match my submission for original article for the crime map. The link will display the website but you must enlarge the OB area and change the date range to observe the patterns described in the article.


scott October 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Thanks for the report Chris. Interesting to note that crime has not actually increased at least during August. I’d be interested to see a more long term study (say past 5-10 years versus this year) but my guess would be that the massive “increase” we’ve seen is due more to a public that is more in tune and in touch than before rather than an increase in actual numbers. I guess it is a good thing that the community is now knowledgeable and taking action but articles like this are important to put everything in perspective. From my experience, living in what appears to be the most dangerous zone in OB, the community has not turned into the crime ravaged sess pool that some stories make it sound like (well… at least not any more than it was last year).


chris dotson October 31, 2012 at 11:06 pm

check out my next article which looks at longer term trends, as u suggest, too.


chris dotson October 30, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Here’s a link to the correct image showing “over spill” and scatter patterns. Sorry the article images aren’t quite correct – I think the filenames were too long for wordpress. Here’s a link to the correct image1:


jim grant October 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Looks like crime is lower. Thanks SDPD for being more active and visible .


chris dotson October 30, 2012 at 6:43 pm

The following OB Crime Watch Facebook page is the main place to plug in at:

There’s also an old group which is less frequently accessed, i recall.


chris dotson October 30, 2012 at 6:54 pm

RE: (Editor’s note: none of the other assailants have been described as “Latino”.)

Tx Frank! Correct! This is NOT the same guy, for example, as the recent attack on a Wed. Morning on Ocean Front, in south OB. Different guy. Both perverts are PRIME suspects but SDPD need witnesses to place them near the scene, or both these buys may walk free. That’s why it is so important to plug in at times when the word needs to get out, like now! Communicating with our families, friends and neighbors.


CJ October 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm

A great job presenting and digesting the data. I posted a week of reported crimes from the SDPD site that is now defunct a few years ago in response to an article about criminal problems in the community. My report included a long list of assaults, public intoxication, and burglaries. I was disturbed that my intent of attempting to bring light to the community crime was meet with apathy and an almost acceptance that crime goes with the territory. I left OB because of the criminal trend I was observing and several incidents where my own peace and property were invaded. Although I did have police respond to the incidents, I know that they were not always “reported” crimes. Let’s keep in mind that a high number of crimes go unreported both nonviolent and violent.


Terrie Leigh Relf October 31, 2012 at 2:03 am

Thank you for this piece. So, does this also mean that the SDPD is doing more patrols of the neighborhood, especially around Santa Cruz? I’m also curious about how the revived OB Citizen Patrol is going to work. For example, what if someone is leaving a restaurant, bar, or whatnot, and they don’t feel comfortable walking alone. Are “we” going to have some sort of escort service? When I was a student at UCSD back in the 80s and living in married student housing (AKA single parent housing), we had a rash of attempted and actual rapes. As a result, the school, and various other interested parties (like OBtians) created watch groups. One of the issues (and this is why I mention old news) is that it was easy to break into these apts. We didn’t have bars on them and so forth. There may have been a few instances where people did forget to lock their doors, but many people then, as now, especially with the heat, like to sleep with their windows open. I don’t like bars on the windows, but there are times I wish I had them so I could sleep with my windows open. I think it would be a good idea if notices went out to landlords. . .If there’s a lawyer in the house, perhaps he or she could reply about landlord responsibility (if any) for apartments and houses that are easy to access – even when supposedly locked tight.


chris dotson October 31, 2012 at 2:48 am

Great questions! I’ll be posting addt’l articles on several topics you’ve hit upon, too.

Also, Tim at Tower Two, along with the group have answers to each of these on Tuesday’s! Check them out on Facebook. OB Crime Watch Facebook page is a place to plug in and learn more at:


Deb November 5, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Is there a meeting tomorrow? Just checking since its election day and I am not into facebook. Thanks


Terrie Leigh Relf October 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Thank you, Chris.

I’ll check out Tuesday’s. I joined the FB page, too.


chris dotson October 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm

A very solid action to take. Tx Terrie!


Goatskull October 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Whether or not crime has gone up on OB there are many who feel it has. Like I mentioned in the previous article about OB crime (specifically the recent break in this past weekend), a female colleague of mine who lives in OB recently purchased a hand gun (this was before the recent break in) and she plans on carrying it in her possession while anywhere outside her house, including just walking around the town and keeping it loaded. She even indicated she’s not that concerned about the possible consequences. I have to wonder if more are going to make the same choice as her, even in a very liberal/progressive neighborhood.


CJ November 1, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Let’s hope people avoid arming themselves with handguns. It’s a myth that having a concealed weapon will protect you. Of course, you could carry a gun openly and serve notice to all who might dare accost you just like in the good old wild west or in modern day AZ &TX.
Individuals would be better served by taking a self-defense course from a reputable program. Accessing a gun when your getting choked or being taken to the ground is unlikely. I question whether having a gun for protection in your home is always effective unless you are fully cognizant when an intruder enters. If your fumbling for your gun while coming out of your sleep could put you at greater risk.


Goatskull November 2, 2012 at 8:59 am

I pretty much agree.


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