San Luis Obispo County once again experienced a drop in both property and violent crime, a trend consistent with the rest of California.
Data released earlier this month by the California Department of Justice shows that reports of local violent crime in 2018 decreased 11% from 2017, and property crime — which law enforcement officials have for years said was on the rise thanks to recent criminal justice reform measures — decreased about 5.5%.
In 2018, San Luis Obispo County recorded 738 total violent crimes — homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — and 5,489 property crimes, including burglary and vehicle theft. That’s down from 829 violent crimes and 5,812 property crimes in 2017.
Last year’s drop in those main categories follows a local downward trend that began in 2017, the first year of a net decrease in both property and violent crime in San Luis Obispo County since 2010, according to FBI data.
Those numbers align with most of California, where most violent and property crimes continue an ongoing decline since peaking in the early 1990s, with the exception of rape cases.
Those crimes have risen dramatically, in large part because law enforcement officials in 2013 broadened the definition of rape and, according to experts, victims are are more likely to report their attack to law enforcement now than in previous decades.
Here are the local numbers:
Three homicides — the killing of a person by another, which includes murder — were recorded in San Luis Obispo County in 2018, up from two recorded in 2017.
All three have since been charged as murders in San Luis Obispo Court.
San Luis Obispo resident Kristen Marti was discovered in March 2018 with her throat slashed in Prefumo Canyon after having gone missing since January. Robert William Koehler, 36, is accused of killing Marti after allegedly meeting her for paid sex in a vehicle parked in Prefumo Canyon. Koehler is scheduled for trial in January 2020.
Carlo Fuentes Flores, 42, is facing the death penalty after being charged with murder during the commission of rape and burglary for the killing of 62-year-old Paso Robles resident Nancy Woodrum. She had been missing since May of last year before Fuentes Flores allegedly led investigators to her remains in a remote spot in eastern San Luis Obispo County in December. Fuentes Flores is due back in court Aug. 19.
In October 2018, Athena Ilona Valentiny, a 64-year-old nurse at the California Men’s Colony, was found stabbed to death in her home in Grover Beach. Her son, Indiana resident Levente Lazslo Lazar, 26, is accused in her murder and is scheduled for trial in September.
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Since 2013, when the definition of rape was expanded to include men as victims, among other criteria, the number of cases have soared across the state. Experts also say more victims have been willing to come forward to report their assaults to law enforcement, suggesting the number of cases was actually far higher in previous decades.
In 2018, San Luis Obispo County recorded 121 reports of rape, up from 96 reported rapes in 2017. The 2018 numbers include 55 in San Luis Obispo, 23 in unincorporated parts of the county, 15 in Atascadero and 13 in Paso Robles. One reported rape was recorded by Cal Poly University Police.
These numbers only include reported crimes, not crimes that led to prosecution.
San Luis Obispo County recorded 71 robberies in 2018, down from 85 reported robberies in 2017.
Last year’s total includes 33 reported incidents in the city of San Luis Obispo, nine in Atascadero and seven in Paso Robles.
San Luis Obispo County’s recorded number of aggravated assaults are skewed because of Atascadero State Hospital, where several assaults take place against staff and other patients every week.
In 2018, the county recorded 543 aggravated assaults, including 164 that were reported at the hospital. The Department of State Hospitals recorded 217 assaults in 2017. Not taking hospital assaults into consideration, 2018 saw 379 aggravated assaults — the majority of which happened in San Luis Obispo — a roughly 11% decrease from 2017.
Local burglaries were slightly up in 2018 from the previous year, 1,078 to 1,038. The majority, with 394 reports, occurred in unincorporated San Luis Obispo County, followed by San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and Pismo Beach.
Vehicle thefts saw the most dramatic decline from 2017, with a 25% drop from the previous year. In 2018, San Luis Obispo County reported 320 vehicle thefts, with the majority of thefts occurring in the city of San Luis Obispo.
The California Highway Patrol recorded the second highest number of reports, with 63 vehicle thefts recorded across the county.
The Department of Justice also began tracking reported hate crimes in in 2013. Numbers of incidents have fluctuated over the years, from a high of nine events in 2013, to a low of three in 2016, to a high again of nine in 2017.
In 2018, there were seven reported hate crimes in the county, including eight offenses against eight alleged victims, in which six suspects were reported.
According to the report, 11 hate crime charges were filed by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office in 2018, and three people were convicted after pleading no contest to charges.