Despite an overall decline in crime throughout California and the nation during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, both property and violent crime increased 2021. Californians are voicing major concerns about crime and street violence in their local communities, according to the latest PPIC Statewide Survey. And the number that would give their local police an excellent rating has plunged to a record low.
Today, an overwhelming majority of California adults say violence and street crime is either a big problem or at least somewhat of a problem (30% big, 46% somewhat) in their local community; a quarter say it is not much of a problem (24%). The share of adults saying it is at least somewhat of a problem has increased by 11 percentage points since last February (34% big, 31% somewhat, 35% not much of a problem).
Views of crime vary notably across demographic groups. Among racial/ethnic groups, nearly half of African Americans say it is a big problem, compared to about three in ten or fewer among Asian Americans, Latinos, and whites. Adults with lower incomes are much more likely than adults with higher incomes to call crime a big problem. The share calling violence and street crime a big problem is highest in the Inland Empire and lowest in Orange/San Diego. Overall shares are similar when Californians are asked about property crime (30% big, 44% somewhat, 25% not much of a problem).
Have things gotten worse? Californians are divided. About half of adults (48%) say violence and street crime has increased in their local community over the past year, while over four in ten feel crime rates have stayed the same (46%); few say it has decreased (5%). These shares are somewhat similar to those in September 2022, when we last asked this question. Today, Californians are similarly divided about property crime (47% increased, 48% stayed the same, 4% decreased).
With concerns about crime widespread, do residents think that the police are doing a good job? A slim majority of adults say the police are doing a fair (39%) or poor (13%) job of controlling crime in their community. Fewer say police are doing an excellent (9%) or good job (37%). Californians today are less likely to give an excellent or good rating than they were February 2022 (18% excellent, 37% good). The share that would give an excellent rating has now declined by half—to a record low.
Again, views vary across demographic and regional groups. Nearly two thirds of African Americans give a fair or poor rating to police efforts, followed by about half of Asian Americans, Latinos, and whites. Across the state’s regions, majorities in Los Angeles, the Central Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area give low ratings to the police; fewer do so in the Inland Empire and Orange/San Diego. Lower income adults are more likely to hold negative views than higher income adults. Los Angeles residents (19%), African Americans (17%), younger adults (16% of adults ages 18–34), and adults with incomes less than $40,000 (17%) are the most likely to say that their local police are doing a poor job.
As discussions of crime and policing in the state continue, PPIC will be monitoring Californians’ opinions on these issues.