Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office reports a decrease in serious crimes

The number of serious crimes in Santa Barbara County is at its lowest level in 10 years. The Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office's new 2023 Crime Statistics Report shows that crimes such as murder or rape have declined significantly in 2023 in the areas served by the department. Police departments in the county's largest cities, Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, also reported fewer serious crimes last year.

Category 1 crimes, which are the most serious offenses, include violent crimes such as manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, as well as property crimes such as burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft.

The report covers all areas under the jurisdiction of the SBSO, which means the unincorporated areas in the county, including Isla Vista and Montecito, as well as the areas where the office has contracts – Carpinteria, Goleta, Buellton and Solvang. The report does not include the City of Santa Barbara, which is under the jurisdiction of the Santa Barbara Police Department (SBPD).

“I am immensely proud of the many contributions the men and women of the Sheriff's Office made in 2023 to keep the peace and keep our communities safe,” said Sheriff Bill Brown. | Photo credit: Daniel Dreifuss File

“I am immensely proud of the many contributions of the men and women of the Sheriff

“The Office’s work in 2023 has helped keep the peace and ensure the safety of our communities,” Sheriff Bill Brown said in an SBSO press release.

Brown emphasized how impressive this low rate is given the rise in fentanyl use in the region.

“The total number of Part 1 offenses was the lowest in the last 10 years,” Brown said in a press release. “This is a remarkable achievement given the challenges we have faced over the past year, including the spread of fentanyl in our communities and the associated increase in overdose deaths.”

When distinguishing Category 1 crimes, the total number of violent crimes increased by 5.9 percent from 2022 to 2023.

The total number of Part 1 offences has decreased to 2,225 offences, compared to 2,679 offences in 2022 and 2,707 offences 10 years ago in 2014.

Across all jurisdictions, homicides fell 67 percent, rapes fell 5 percent, while aggravated assaults, the most commonly reported Part 1 violent crime, increased 10 percent, all compared to the previous year. Among property crimes, arsons fell 52 percent, while auto thefts saw a slight increase of 2 percent.

The graph above shows the number of Category 1 crimes – the most serious crime category – reported from 2014 to 2023. | Photo credit: Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office

Solvang, Carpinteria, Buellton, Isla Vista and the county's unincorporated areas reported zero murders in 2023, while Goleta reported one murder for the year.

Across all jurisdictions, the SBSO reported a total of nearly 6,000 incidents in 2023 and wrote a total of over 14,000 reports.

Nearby Santa Maria, which is also part of Santa Barbara County but not under the jurisdiction of the SBSO, has also seen a decline in Category 1 crimes. The City of Santa Maria reported in a press release that there was a 28 percent decrease in Category 1 crimes from 2022 to 2023.

In the city of Santa Barbara, violent crime decreased by 4 percent from 2022 to 2023. According to SBPD data, there was one homicide in the city in 2023. Property crimes such as burglary, breaking/theft from a vehicle, arson, and other thefts decreased in 2023 compared to the previous year, but grand thefts increased by 4 percent. Santa Barbara and Santa Maria are the largest cities in the county.