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Commentary: San Diego crime rate continues to fall

Yesterday I was joined by Police Chief Lansdowne to report some remarkable news about crime in San Diego. San Diegans are less likely to be victims of crime than at any time since 1963.

Crime is down dramatically in a wide range of categories, from murder and rape to burglary and motor-vehicle theft. The crime rate - defined as the number of crimes per thousand residents - is the city's lowest in almost half a century.

Overall, we had nearly 18% fewer crimes in 2009 than we did in 2008 - the largest year-over-year decline in at least six decades.

We had 41 homicides in 2009. The last time we had fewer was in 1972 - and back then, the city's population was roughly half the size it is today.

To some extent, San Diego is benefitting from a national trend that is seeing crime drop in large cities across the country. Experts cite a whole host of reasons for this, including tougher sentencing laws and the aging of the U.S. population.

Our police have done an outstanding job of keeping our citizens safe through a combination of aggressive tactics and creative thinking.

Our police have taken a proactive approach to crime-reduction using strategies ranging from community policing to enforcement of curfew and truancy laws.

2009 saw a number of important accomplishments for the department. Using a national database, the crime lab made more than 400 DNA hits, which helped solve crimes ranging from homicides to rapes to robberies.

Our police also broke up several important crime rings and solved a number of high-profile cases, including several notorious multiple-murder cases.

Compared to other cities of nearly identical size -- such as Dallas, Phoenix and San Antonio -- we are doing remarkably well, especially when it comes to the murder rate.

Dallas had four times as many homicides as we did in 2009. Phoenix had three times as many and San Antonio had more than twice as many.

Needless to say, our police face enormous challenges in the upcoming year. The recession continues to take its toll on San Diego, posing a host of potential issues for law enforcement.

And limited resources will also force police to do more with less and work in new, creative ways.

I applaud our police department for its remarkable work in helping keep San Diegans as safe as possible.