By Chloe Serventi
The crime rate in Fullerton increased 9 percent – from 2,551 per 100,000 residents in 2014 to 2,785 in 2016 – though there was a slight dip in 2015.
That’s according to City-Data.com, which pulls statistics from public records. The site’s crime data, which goes back to 2002, shows overall crime rates decreasing during that time.
Still, local crimes such as the alleged sexual batteries last year of two Fullerton College female students – combined with national reports about gun violence and #MeToo assaults – have put some Fullerton residents on edge while others are doing more to take personal precautions.
The murder rate per 100,000 residents increased from 0 to 3.5 between 2012 to 2016, according to City-Data.com. Over that 5-year period, the number of rapes per 100,000 people also rose from 22 to 39 — despite a slight dip from 2015 to 2016.
The Police Department could not be reached for comments in time for publishing, despite multiple calls and emails.
Awareness is the first line of defense, said Melissa Skrederstu, a prevention specialist at the Phoenix House of Orange County for the health care agency, which provides positive action services ranging from peer pressure to nutrition and empathy in local schools.
“Don’t be distracted by your phone. If someone is following you too closely call them out on it. Better to seem crazy and safe then shy and unsafe,” stated Skrederstu.
Traveling in groups and carrying protection such as pepper spray can also help, she said.
Classes on how to use more advanced tools such as a taser, knife or mace are available at certain weapon retailers and police stations.
However, some companies restrict carrying protection since it can be considered a concealed weapon. Companies like Disneyland and the Brea Improv Comedy Club have banned protective weapons due to legal reasons.
Those who work in schools seem to feel a sense of urgency about being prepared for danger, Skrederstu said.
“We have to be constantly vigilant about our surroundings and what’s going on in every school in every district we’re in. Between school shootings and attempted kidnappings, we have to be trained on what to do in various situations,” she said.
Some residents and visitors echo Skrederstu’s advice.
It seems “there is a lot more crime happening [generally, so] I make sure to park in highly populated areas. I always have my car alarm ready for ‘panic,’” said Ashley Aguilar, a self-employed hair stylist who regularly hits up nightspots in downtown Fullerton. She added that she uses the “buddy system” when she can and is considering carrying pepper spray.
Aguilar voiced a specific safety concerns within her own community, saying that she believes homelessness may have a hand in the increased crime rates.
“We have a huge [homeless issue] that is continuing to grow each day. I have a friend who owns a salon who’s had to move her location due to the homeless. After contacting the authorities on numerous occasions, the problems still continued to worsen… That ultimately made her have to move her business,” Aguilar said.
But homeless advocates say they can’t be blamed. Most cities don’t have shelters or proper locations to set up camp. Homeless folks tend to find an area that would be the best shelter for themselves.
Aguilar suggests having police officers patrol areas more frequently and creating more mental health facilities.
Skrederstu said societal changes are definitely needed, too — everything from more lighting and neighborhood watch programs to broader solutions. “It needs to be a deeper, long-term change, for society as a whole,” she said. “Teaching men about consent, having more resources for people with mental illness, gun reform, more funding for schools to provide school psychologist and counseling. Otherwise we’re just putting a Band-Aid on it and hoping for the best.”
Graphic created using data from CityData.com.