Serious Crime Down in Newport, but Overall Crime Up: Authorities

By Drew Van Voorhis
Drew Van Voorhis
Drew Van Voorhis
Drew Van Voorhis is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. He has been a journalist for six years, during which time he has broken several viral national news stories and has been interviewed for his work on both radio and internet shows.
February 25, 2022Updated: February 27, 2022

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—Overall crime in Newport Beach increased in 2021 compared to 2020, though serious crimes declined during the same period, Newport Beach Police Chief John Lewis said in a presentation during a Feb. 22 city council meeting.

Part 1 crimes—defined by the FBI on its uniform crime report as murder, aggravated assault, rape, robbery, larceny, vehicle theft, and arson—decreased by 8.8 percent, or 172 fewer cases from 2020 to 2021.

This same category of crime in 2021 also decreased 17.6 percent, or 381 fewer cases, when compared to the 5-year average of 2016 to 2020.

For violent crimes, Newport Beach had 122 instances in 2021, a 4 percent decrease from 2020, with Lewis noting that the city has fewer violent crimes relative to other Orange County cities.

Newport Beach had two homicides in 2021, compared to just one in 2020.

The first was when a homeowner fatally shot a man who broke into his home in late August 2021, with the resident later cleared by the District Attorney’s Office. The second homicide took place in mid-October at the city’s pier after two men got into an altercation, leaving one dead. Police arrested the other man.

While serious offenses decreased in 2021, overall crime returned closer to pre-pandemic levels.

One type of crime that is growing in Newport Beach is residential burglaries, which increased by 17.2 percent from 2020 to 2021, Lewis said.

The reason for this growth is that burglars usually scope out empty homes before they burglarize, Lewis said, adding that in 2020, most people were home more often due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, which minimized the chances for potential burglars.

As more people returned to work in 2021, more homes were empty during the day, and burglars had more opportunities to break in, according to Lewis.

“Anybody that’s been a victim of residential burglary knows what kind of violation that is related to the sanctity of your home, and we spend significant effort in combating people that are going to target our homes,” Lewis said.

The residential burglaries are partly a result of South American theft groups, who target high-end areas worldwide, according to Deputy Chief Joe Cartwright.

“It’s the affluent cities, cities that typically have people with nicer cars and amenities and things of that nature. Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, Atherton up near Silicon Valley, higher price targets. Their MO [modus operandi] is to hit high-end homes, usually entering through the rear of the home,” Cartwright said.

In 2021, Newport Beach police arrested 3,006 people—an 11.6 percent increase from 2020—though an 8.7 percent decrease over the last five years.

“People are surprised to know that on average in Newport Beach, historically we physically arrest about 3,500 people a year. You can see from the numbers that 2020 was a down year, but we’re moving back [toward the average],” Lewis said.