Newport Beach Police Chief Recounts ‘More Crooks on the Street’

February 19, 2021 Updated: February 21, 2021

Newport Beach’s top cop says that while crime remains low in the coastal city, police have seen an upswing in thefts.

“We had frankly more crooks on the street,” Police Chief Jon Lewis said during a Feb. 18 Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce meeting. “They were taking advantage of these opportunities here.”

The department saw an increase in theft due to unattended property stolen by porch pirates, Lewis said.

One package thief was arrested and booked by officers seven times—each a felony crime—throughout 2020, Lewis said.

“When these people come in, they’re out quickly and they come back,” he said. “They know what the consequences are too, or the lack thereof.

“The risk sometimes makes it worth the reward they are going to get. … If they think they’re just going to be getting out and back again—and maybe the result of that is they don’t get to keep the property they stole—there’s really not much of an incentive for them to correct their behavior.”

Overall, the city was “flat in crime” last year, meaning it hadn’t changed much since 2019’s historically low record, Lewis said.

The department saw a historic low rate in crime in 2019. Last year’s crime rate increased by about 1 percent, but the Newport Beach Police’s five-year-average crime rate is down 12 percent.

However, the city saw a slight uptick in the number of robberies, or taking personal property by force or fear, in 2020.

Typical robberies include purse snatching and taking money from a register at a convenience store. Shoplifting that is interrupted by a security guard or police officer is also classified as a robbery.

“Shoplifts can also be classified as commercial burglary, depending on what the circumstances are.”

Record Response Times

Lewis also spoke of Newport Beach police’s “fast” response times, or how quickly an officer arrives on scene following a 911 call. His department’s response time was an average of under three minutes last year, he said.

“As far as an industry standard, [our response time] is outstanding,” Lewis said.

Lewis said response times in 2020 were 15 seconds faster than the previous year. He attributed this to fewer cars on the road due to the lockdown amid the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

There are about 7 arrests per day.