Three years ago, Pacific Beach ranked second behind only East Village out of 125 City communities in violent crimes reported that year with 216. Today, PB retains the exact same ranking, down slightly with 206 total violent crimes reported in the community in 2019 crime statistics compiled by San Diego Police Department.
Hillcrest was third in this year’s violent crime “top five” with 165 violent crimes followed by North Park with 150 and Core-Columbia with 147.
And statistics for PB from 2009 to 2018 reflect that the beach community’s average number of violent crimes has consistently been as much as three to six times the citywide average, which ranged from 41.5 to 48.2 violent crimes per year during that time period.
Violent crimes include murder, rapes, armed robberies, and aggravated assaults, with assaults making up most of the violent crime numbers. In 2019, Pacific Beach had 18 rapes and 152 aggravated assaults.
Reacting to the most recent violent crime stats, community activist Scott Chipman, who has lobbied for years against over saturation of alcohol licenses in PB, said: “Most of the violent crime is alcohol-related and occurs in the bar-district. In some areas of PB, there are six times more alcohol licenses than allowed by state guidelines, and every year we get more.
“In 2008, PB had 128 alcohol licenses (17 bars, 77 restaurants, and 34 stores). As of July 2020, PB has 159 licenses (18 bars, 100 restaurants, and 41 stores).”
“I work in substance abuse prevention, and have spent a lot of time with PB residents who are concerned about alcohol-related crime,” said Rob Hall, media advocacy specialist with SAY San Diego North City Prevention Coalition, which strives to create neighborhood and community change. “In short, the alcohol problems in PB, OB, North Park, Hillcrest, and OB are sucking up a lot of police, fire, and paramedic resources.
“Our end game is an ordinance aimed at bringing a few less-responsible bars, restaurants, and breweries in line with the good-business policies practiced by the majority of our hospitality industry citywide.”
Brian Curry, former PB Planning Group chair and co-owner of Fitness West, is convinced alcohol is behind the community’s continuing high rate of violent crime.
“It’s really the concentration of alcohol licenses and the concentration of crime in Pacific Beach that we were really concerned about,” Curry said noting the Community Planners Committee, an umbrella organization representing the City’s 40-plus planning groups, has proposed a solution to alcohol-related crime in communities.
“We looked at what was working and what wasn’t working,” Curry said noting the CPC’s answer is “to take back control, locally, of our licensing situation through land use (powers). You start to implement a Conditional Use Permit for licensing. It’s for new licensing that the CUP applies, and/or if a bad operator continues to fall out of line.
“That’s the recommendation, by taking control back from Sacramento and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, we can implement the changes we need in alcohol policy. Problems wouldn’t end the next day, but it would basically get us able to keep people in line on over-serving, the number of licenses, who gets a license, what are the conditions on the license, etc.”
Added Curry: “In defense of our service industry here, most of them are running a good operation. It’s the few bad apples … even some of my friends in the bar business don’t like those bad apples either because they give the whole community a bad name, increasing the crime stats.
“They don’t want that either. They can’t self-police. Everything has to go through the ABC. That’s the problem. It’s just really bringing everybody in line, getting the bad actors to clean up, really.
“No one is trying to shut down anyone. We just want the ability to have new (alcohol) licenses in PB (conditioned) for new restaurants, etc. so that they then do not become bars and nightclubs."
SDPD’s citywide 2019 crime report can be viewed at sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/2019cumneighborhood.pdf.