Reported crime in Sonoma County fell by more than 20% in a decade

The number of crimes reported in Sonoma County fell by 22% between 2010 and 2019, as California as a whole reported its lowest crime level in recorded history last year, according to state data.

Statewide, crime reporting per capita decreased 12% in 2019 when compared to the start of the decade and 3% when compared to 2018, according to data compiled in a report published recently by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that aims to decrease reliance on incarceration.

Only 10 other counties in California had lower crime rates in 2019 than Sonoma County, whose law enforcement agencies reported responding to 1,705 crimes per 100,000 people.

Sonoma County was also one of 41 counties in California where crime rates tilted downward when compared to 2010 figures.

The trend comes after a wave of criminal justice reforms that have been adopted in the state since 2010, the report highlighted. It also coincides with a downward trend nationally.

“California’s record-low 2019 crime rates cap a period of substantial change in the criminal justice system,” the report said. “Despite initial concerns that reform would erode public safety, most communities were safer in 2019 than at the start of the decade.”

Those reforms include the passage of Public Safety Realignment in 2011, which moved certain low-level offenders from overcrowded state-run prisons to county jails.

Three years later, voters adopted Proposition 47, which downgraded certain drug and property crimes. The law led to thousands of people being resentenced and released, the center said.

Proposition 57 allowed state prisoners who participated in rehabilitation and education programs to be released on early parole in 2016. Marijuana was legalized that same year, reducing marijuana arrests by 93% between 2010 and 2019, the report said.

The statewide data showed the biggest decreases in crime reports per capita between 2010 and 2019 came from a decline in property crimes, which dropped by 13%, the center said. Violent crimes dropped by 5% in 2019 versus 2010, according to the center.

In Sonoma County, the decline in crime rates was even steeper between 2010 and 2019 than state figures.

For every 100,000 people in Sonoma County, local officers and deputies were called out to 1,705 crimes in 2019 versus roughly 2,185 crimes in 2010, a 22% decline.

The shrinking crime rate statewide follows a broader decline in reported crimes throughout the United States that can be traced back to the 1990s, said Sonoma State University Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies Department Chair Napoleon Reyes.

“If you compare other states, almost all states show that crime trends are going down,” Reyes said. “We have a spike every now and then, but the overall trend is going down.”

The nationwide decrease was among the reasons Reyes cautioned people against making cause-and-effect links between California-specific criminal justice reforms and the declines in crime reporting.

He added that state figures do not capture crimes never reported to police in the first place or cases in which officers took any official action, such as instances when officers give a speeding driver a verbal warning rather than a ticket.

Instead, the data is a better measure of where law enforcement agencies prioritize their resources based either on the decisions from the departments’ top brass or in response to community pressure.

“If a local county decides to focus on street crimes, naturally a lot of resources will be located there by the local sheriff’s office,” Reyes said.

While no single reform has lead to a decrease in crime, Reyes recognized there has been culmination of gradual shifts in how law enforcement agencies approach their work.

He noted President Barack Obama’s 2015 decision to restrict what types of military weapons could be transferred to local police agencies.

More agencies are also exploring restorative approaches for dealing with minors who commit crimes rather than focusing solely on punishment, he said.

“That ’gotcha’ attitude, that just doesn’t work,” Reyes said. “If you’re not changing the root cause of misbehavior, it doesn’t change anything.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or On Twitter @nashellytweets.

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   


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