Felony Arrests Dropped 16% in Malibu in 2020

Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station social media posted this photo of a bike taken off the street in Malibu after its rider was pulled over going 108 miles per hour on Pacific Coast Highway in the middle of Malibu.

Malibu saw a 16 percent decrease in felony arrests in 2020, but an increase in other crimes, according to a Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department report that assessed the first 11 months of 2020 in comparison to the year 2019. But are those numbers as positive as they seem? 

“I don’t think it’s gotten worse, but I don’t think it’s gotten better,” Malibu Public Safety Commission Chair Chris Frost said in a recent conversation with The Malibu Times, referring to the crime rate. While Malibu’s overall crime rate did decrease in 2020, it had previously increased by a similar amount—12.7 percent—in 2019, pointing to 2019 being the outlier rather than 2020. 

There were no homicides in Malibu in the first 11 months of 2020 (and no indication one took place in December 2020 either), whereas in the year before there was one. And Malibu saw a ninefold decrease in strong-arm robbery, down from 11 in 2019 to just two in the first 11 months of 2020. 

There were five more residential burglaries than there were in the same span of 2019, but 22 fewer business burglaries. And there were 57 fewer vehicle burglaries in 2020: only 88 compared to 2019’s 145. 

There was, however, an uptick in rapes in Malibu in 2020: there were eight this year, as opposed to four the year before. The figure seemed to surprise Frost.

“Those may not be residents,” he said. “It could be a party [or] people on [the] beach at night.” Frost also clarified that the numbers provided by the sheriff’s department are only arrests, not convictions. 

In total, 19 vehicles were stolen in the first 11 months of 2020. 

The most collisions last year occurred at the intersection of Big Rock Drive and PCH, followed by Carbon Canyon Road and PCH and Malibu Canyon Road and PCH. There were a total of 282 traffic citations issued.

Representatives for the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station were not available to answer questions about the statistics by the time The Malibu Times went to print on Tuesday. The report was to be discussed at the Wednesday, Jan. 6, Malibu Public Safety Commission meeting.

Frost said he did not know of any specific change in the sheriff’s department’s tactics that could have tamped down the overall crime rate in 2020, but he did commend the sheriff’s officials for their hard work, along with the Volunteers on Patrol, or VOPs, who donate their time, much of it between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m., to sweeping the highway, writing parking tickets, writing up reports for deputies in order to free up deputies’ time, doing vacation checks and often dealing with issues in the RVs parked along PCH. One VOP, Mark Russo, has clocked more than 20,000 hours serving the city, according to Frost—“Great people doing a great job,” Frost extolled. 

“A lot of people don’t see these things,” Frost said, referring to criminal behavior taking place at night along Malibu roads. Frost mentioned that sheriff’s deputies had arrested men with such things as loaded guns, alcohol and drug paraphernalia in cars. He also said that the Public Safety Commission was requesting another patrol car with two deputies to work at night and another one to help with traffic enforcement during the day.

“I think that the street racing problem has eclipsed everything else at this point,” Frost said when asked what the most pressing issue of 2021 was, adding that homelessness was a close second. Frost theorized that the Bobcat Fire, “which cleaned the clock on Angeles Crest Highway”—the winding mountain roadway northeast of Los Angeles remains closed—has contributed to the increase in racing out in Malibu. The pandemic, too, he said, has turned more people on to racing because working on cars and competing in cars is something one can still do while socially distancing—to the detriment of Malibu citizens, who are imperiled by drivers flying by at often far more than 100 miles per hour.