Ventura, San Bernardino and Anaheim saw double-digit increases in violent crime, according to FBI crime data released on June 11, 2012.
Bucking a national trend, Ventura, San Bernardino and Anaheim were among six California cities with a population over 100,000 that saw the biggest spikes in violent crime in 2011, according to an NBC4 analysis of FBI crime data released Monday.
Violent crime -- which includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault -- jumped 24 percent in Ventura, going from 263 in 2010 to 326 in 2011, statistics show.
Violent crime in San Bernardino jumped 15 percent, going from 1,624 in 2010 to 1,861 in 2011.
Anaheim reported a 10 percent jump in violent crime, going from 1,161 in 2010 to 1,281 last year, according to the FBI statistics. Murders in Anaheim more than doubled from 7 to 15, while forcible rapes were up from 88 to 105 and robberies went up from 574 to 715.
Thomas W. Ward, a gang expert from USC, blamed the spike on gang problems in cities and suburbs that might not have had them before.
“There are spikes in activity often in places that did not see very much gang activity in the past,” said Ward, a professor of anthropology at USC, who recently published a book called “Gangsters Without Borders” about the Salvadoran gang MS-13. “Gang members are moving into new areas to get away from problems they're having.
“It only takes a few cases to make the numbers jump out.”
The statistics came from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual preliminary Uniform Crime report. The data shows that, nationally, violent crime dropped 4 percent in 2011.
Property crimes -- which include burglary, larceny, theft, and motor vehicle theft -- dropped just under 1 percent across the country, data show.
Arson dropped 5 percent.
In Southern California, El Cajon and Temecula saw the biggest jumps in violent crime -- 37 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
San Bernardino has been struggling with a spike in homicides this year. There have been 17 homicides there in 2011, compared with 13 in the same period the year prior.
In 2011, the city recorded 30 homicides, compared with 31 in 2010, FBI data show.
Police blamed the spike in recent homicides on an uptick in gang crime and narcotics.
“Most of the people involved in these have chosen a lifestyle -- either gang involvement, narcotic involvement or something with a violent nature,” said San Bernardino Police Lt. Paul Williams.
Ventura police reported 27 more robberies and 34 felony assaults in 2011. Violent gang crime jumped nearly 60 percent, with 73 crimes reported in 2011, compared with 46 in 2010.
The city recorded one homicide in 2011, compared with 3 in 2010. Rapes jumped 25 percent, going from 16 in 2010 to 20 in 2011.
Ventura Police Cmdr. Brock Avery said the police department lost its eight-member gang unit last year, which may have contributed to the spike.
"It's a lack of connectivity to gangs and knowing what’s happening," said Brock, adding that he's optimistic the City Council will approve next week adding seven new officers to the department.
In Los Angeles, violent crime dropped 7 percent, going from 21,484 in 2010 to 20,045 in 2011. The city saw a 1 percent increase in homicides -- 297 in 2011, compared with 293 in 2010.